John, born in 1960, was a Nursing Auxillary at Brockhall Hospital for about a year from 1982 to 1983. Here he recalls meal times – both on a children’s ward and a ward for men.
And with food and drink – thinking particularly of the male wards – did people eat and drink together, like staff and residents?
No! No God forbid. No. And even I think, people I would say that given a bit of time and attention would have been able to feed themselves but I just remember, I have this memory, and it happened to a certain extent with the children as well, is that people would just be fed. And I actually remember some people not being fed very nicely, food was rushed. Huge spoonful’s put into people’s mouths. Swallow! Swallow! Open! Yeah – sad.
(pause) I seem to have a memory of – it was on one of the male wards – of somebody pouring the tea over the cornflakes. I remember it was a Charge Nurse. He came through while we were feeding breakfast and he said – somebody was going to be late for something, or had to be somewhere else – and I remember him getting the tea pot, putting the cornflakes in the bowl, getting the tea pot, pouring the tea over the cornflakes and then a bit of milk, and thinking that’ll speed up the process. And it’s little things like that that just like – !! You know. Another day thinking, God! What is this?! What is this? Yeah people were rushed. It’s not an excuse but the staffing ratios were horrendous. You could only do what you could. I remember coming back from a 12 hour shift, particularly on the male wards, just physically drained. Absolutely shattered. Thinking, Thank God I’m not working tomorrow. Because you just physically needed that rest, because it was constantly, constantly on the go. You know when you’ve got thirty men to kind of care and support, a lot of which were doubly incontinent, needed feeding, could do very little for themselves. Charge Nurse would be sat there in the office. So you’d be calling him under your breath. But you just get on with it, but that was how it was. Thank God we’ve changed. Never may we go there again. God forbid! In this day and age it’s a bit frightening that it might slowly creep back to some extent but hopefully not.