FAMILIES are having to wash their own relatives and bring in blankets as overstretched nurses fight a losing battle against the flu crisis, it has been claimed.

One patient told the Evening Times relatives were coming in specifically to help bathe family members at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s Langlands unit, which treats elderly patients, “because the nurses are rushed off their feet”.

It comes as the latest figures show flu rates have quadrupled in Scotland compared with last year, and this week the virus dubbed ‘Aussie flu’ claimed the life of 18-year-old Bethany Walker from Applecross in the Highlands.

Evening Times:

One patient, said: “The nurses are rushed off their feet. Relatives are coming in to help some of them get washed in the bathrooms and then going home again.

“I don’t have any female relatives so the nurses are washing me.”

Elsewhere in the city, patients are said to have been forced to ask relatives to bring in blankets because of a shortage at a unit at the Royal Infirmary which admits A&E patients.

One patient said: “I’m in hospital and they don’t have any covers as there is a shortage. They only have sheets.

Evening Times:

“I said can I have a sheet to cover me as I was cold.

“I had to ask my son to buy one and a wee lady across from me has brought her own too. It’s because of the flu.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde stressed that the personal care of patients was “as important as clinical care” and said some families prefer to do it themselves.

With regard to the blankets, a spokeswoman said no issues had been raised with facilities department but she added: “It may have been a local issue that was resolved through our normal linen policy.”

However politicians described the claims as “absolutely shocking” and blamed under-resourcing of the NHS rather than a winter crisis.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it was a matter for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “The personal care and comfort of our patients is as important as the clinical care and this is factored into the everyday duties of our staff.

“There are times when people might prefer to do it themselves, but there is never an expectation that family members get involved in their relative’s care.

“However, there are always families who want to get involved and usually this is because they have been doing this at home and the patient prefers it to continue in hospital.”

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Anas Sarwar, said: “We’ve heard of office staff having to clean beds or feed patients and now families are having to do the very basics, even supplying blankets.

“This is not just the result of a winter crisis – the BMA has made that clear. It’s the result of chronic under-resourcing by the SNP which has led to a workforce crisis.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This is absolutely shocking. The British Medical Association warned this week that situation should not be dismissed as ‘the inevitable increase in pressure that winter brings’.”

And Glasgow Tory MSP Adam Tomkins said: “These are deeply concerning revelations which show just how stretched our NHS has become thanks to SNP mismanagement.”

People with flu symptoms who have a long-term medical condition, a weakened immune system, are pregnant or over 65 are advised to contact their GP, with officials saying it is not too late to get the vaccine.