Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The NHS, the Elderly and Blue Badges

Two issues have hit the news this week; how badly treated the elderly are in the NHS, and the abuse of blue badges for disabled people. Both anger me and that anger comes from personal experience.

Around five years ago my mother-in-law was taken into hospital suffering frm the norovirus. When I visited I was struck by the ovepowering smell of rotten cabbage in the ward and the corridors. I was also struck by the dress of the staff, I couldn't differentiate between porters, nurses and other staff, they all wore the same type of outfits, pretty scruffy in my opinion.

After she had been in a few days she fell. They x-rayed her and checked her out, just bruising apparently, in itself pretty bad for a woman in her eighties but these things happen.

But when we visited we found out that she had fallen because she had previously rung the bell for assistance to the loo but nobody came, despite ringing for many minutes. She had a 'mishap' in the bed. For this she got such a fierce telling off when staff finally appeared that she was terrified of it happening again. The next day the same thing happened. Rather than risk a bollocking from the nurses she tried to get to the loo herself and fell.

A few days after she had fallen I visited her and thought she was on her way out. She was in obvious pain, kept drifting off and had lost a huge amount of weight. The next day the doctor took my wife into a side room, obviously prompting fear of what news he was about to break. The news was that four days after her fall, and after much complaining by my wife that her mother was seriously ill and nothing was being done, they had loooked at her x-rays again. She had spent those four days with a broken hip that they had missed when they checked her x-rays first time.

They operated the next day but she can now no longer walk other than a few faltering steps. The only time she can leave the house is when my wife visits and puts her in a wheelchair to take her out. This is where big retail parks are a boon, my wife can park her car, put her mum back in the wheelchair and take her around the shops. Sometimes we take her mum and dad for a meal or a bit of an outing to the nearby park.

Around the same time a friend of mine was visiting an elderly relative in hospital. She was so ill that she couldn't pick up her knife and fork. After meals they took away her untouched food and wrote in her notes that she had refused food. She died and my friend, concerened at the poor treatment she had received, tried to get to see her notes. But they had been lost. They were treated in different hospitals, many miles apart.

When my mother-in-law is taken out car parks are used that have disabled bays. Thankfully many do not require the blue disabled badge, which she doesn't have. But we have become ever more aware of the shambles that is the current blue badge scheme. Not only are people obtaining them fraudulently but they are given out to people, who may be registered disabled, but really do not need a blue badge.

I know somebody who has a neck problem. I have no doubt it is uncomfortable but I didn't even know of it until I saw her parking in a disabled bay. She has an excellent job, so can afford to pay in a car park, and certainly has no mobility problem that means she can't walk any distance. Indeed I wonder whether her neck problem, severe enough to be registered disabled, could so restrict mobility that she is actually a danger on the road.

It seems to me that the system is currently so lax that a blue badge is almost a right if people have a disability, whether it is needed or not, and all disabilities do not warrant a blue badge. They are abused by people who get them merely so that they can avoid parking fees or so that they can park on yellow lines and in more convenient parking bays.

It has been proposed in London that only wheelchair users be issued with blue badges. And why not? Next time you see somebody parking on yellow lines outside the shopping centre, and there is no evident disability, just follow them for a while. It's extremely galling when they spend an hour trotting in and out of shops, up and down stairs but claim to be unable to park in the car park because they can't walk from the car to the shops. That was my experience with the friend I mentioned above.

It's about time we faced a few home truths and I hope that this government does something to address the obvious failings within the NHS and the blue badge system. We really must accept the truth and stop the politically correct delusion that all is rosy in the NHS garden.


Rosie said...

Actually, there was no courtesy of a Doctor taking me to a side room.
A nurse announced, about half an hour after I arrived to see Mum, 'did I not know'. Well, as nobody had bothered to tell me - no.
My sister told me about the broken hip as she arrived shortly after me. After arriving earlier in the day, she couldn't bear to see Mum in agony any more and demanded a further x-ray even though doctore assured her that the first x-ray showed no break. Sure enough, Mum had lain i hospital with abroken hip, untreated for six day.
And don't get me started on those very unangelic nurses!

Jim said...

One can only assume that the British public are experiencing some sort of mass delusion, or personality split.

Anyone who has had dealings with the NHS over serious health issues, either personally or via a close family member or friend, knows that the system is seriously flawed, indeed rotten to the core in some areas.

Whereas if any politician or public figure dares to mention these negative issues, and make the eminently reasonable suggestion that things might be done better abroad, using other methods than an entirely State funded and supplied system, they get abuse hurled at them, and everyone denies there are any problems with the NHS, and declares it to be the envy of the world.

One can only hope that eventually the cognitive dissonance dissolves in the light of continuing and increasing NHS incompetence.

Then perhaps we can have a grown up national conversation as to what sort of health provision is suitable for the 21st century, rather than something designed in the 1940s.

Gregg said...

Couldn't agree more Jim.