Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Hot Tub Edition

I was thinking about writing my blog around the publication this week, of a new toolkit. It was developed by Leeds University to help doctors and health service manager’s more effectively work together in improving the quality of patient care in the NHS. The tool kit appeared to consist of different activities that essentially got doctors and managers to talk to each other – which seemed to me to be a good starting point. Strange no one has thought about suggesting this before. However, I was in West Yorkshire for a workshop meeting this week and my thoughts started moving in a different direction after reading a story in the York Post.

The story was of a 63 year old man from North Yorkshire who had been found dead in his hot tub by his female gardener last Friday. Now I don’t know a great deal about hot tubs, but I never imagined they were particularly dangerous. How wrong could I be! Last year the National Water Safety Forum reported that out of the 420 water related deaths in England, 24 were the result of incidents in hot tubs. Apparently there are at least 100,000 hot tubs in the UK, with around 6,000 sold every year. The most popular models seat up to 5 and cost from £2,500 to £25,000

The trend for having a hot tub in your back garden has spread from the US and Scandinavia. The benefits of hot tubs are well known, for example, physical relaxation, hydrotherapy and massage. But there are a number of hidden dangers of hot tubs that people are unlikely to be aware of. For example, hot water is a necessary part of the effectiveness of a hot tub. If the water temperature rises above 40ยบC the heat can cause sleepiness, and in some cases, this can lead to accidental drowning. Likewise, raising one’s body temperature to a high level can also cause heat stroke, heart attack, skin burns and even brain damage.

Another hidden danger is the so called ‘Hot Tub Lung’ caused by bacteria getting into the steam of the hot water, and a skin condition called ‘Hot Tub Rash’ caused by the bacteria found in water that has not been changed very often. Other hidden dangers include the type of drain cover fitted. Drain covers prevent long hair from becoming pulled into the drain, and in so doing, trapping a person’s head underwater resulting in death through drowning. The strong suction of the drain can also entrap limbs, causing injury and also death.

In a related study published last week, hot tubs have been deemed almost anti-social, having entered for the first time the top 10 list of the causes of ‘garden rage’. Whereas other entries on the list, such as power tools, barbecue smoke and faulty burglar alarms, are familiar annoyances from many a summer, the hot tubs are a relatively new phenomenon. The BBC’s Gardeners’ World magazine interviewed more than 800 readers about the things that most annoyed them in the garden.

Top of the list were late-night parties, with specific complaints relating to ‘students acting like 3 year-olds’ and ‘groups of middle-aged women shrieking’. More unusual sources of irritation included the smell of fabric conditioner, the sound of wind chimes, stray chickens and model aircraft. Hot tubs featured at number 8. As well as their perpetual ‘bubbling’ sound many hot tub owners also have a tendency to hold noisy late-night parties while taking a dip, the survey found.

Clearly despite their popularity hot tubs are in need of a makeover in terms of being seen as health promoting and socially desirable. Perhaps instead of purchasing a conversational tool kit’ maybe every hospital should take a leaf out of Microsoft’s approach to facilitating good human interactions at work, and invest in a hot tub. Once a week, the hot tub could be fired up and doctors and managers could sit and have their conversations over how to improve the quality of care they were providing to patients. Wind chimes and free range chickens would be banned of course.