As we were trying to get ourselves & the twins ready to go out to Twins Club this morning we had a ‘phone call. It was from a very smug Doctor from Birmingham Children’s Hospital, responding to a message we’d left
- in November.
She seemed to think that this was perfectly OK, & only apologised when pressed. It was about trying to get the promised follow-up appointment that they seemed to have forgotten for Jallie’s reflux problems.
They’re OK now, basically because they’re several months older!
Sadly this level of dis-service, incompetence & rudeness seems to be considered acceptable, even the norm for the NHS; at least in my neck of the woods.
Anyone who has been reading my “Dear So & Sos” will know that I’ve been having huge problems trying to get a much-needed shoulder operation done (ruptured tendon, probably the result of a fractured clavicle). It’s been at least 2 years – to be honest I’ve lost track – since I first went to the GP about it. After referrals, physio, X-rays, lost x-rays, redone x-rays, a scan, consultations I finally got a date for it: June last year. Unfortunately in the time they took for all this to happen my wife had become pregnant & given birth to twins, then 3 months old!
Even with the 2 of us at home 24 hours we were struggling. There was no way I could just ‘take time off’ for 6 weeks, even with 1 arm available. So I had to postpone & was given a Pre-Op Assessment for early September, which I passed, with the Op a month later.
3 weeks later though I’d come down with a seasonal allergic catarrh & chesty cough. Having been told I shouldn’t have the Op if I had a chest infection, I spent an incredibly frustrating week of ‘phone calls where I was transferred to every department & back again, messages left on voice-mails, many “I’ll ‘phone you back” lies & still I couldn’t find anyone who could advise me as to whether or not I should proceed. The day before the Op I finally got to speak to a Pre-Op Nurse, who said I shouldn’t. I then phoned the Waiting List Co-ordinator for the millionth time, who then had a go at me for leaving it so late to cancel! She’s lucky she wasn’t within my ‘phone throwing range. At least she didn’t transfer me to Cardiac that time, although I was getting to the point where I needed to be.
I was postponed ’til November, then December, then November again. Lots more ‘phone calls & aggravation. Unfortunately by November I was still chesty: bumped again! Patient Liaison told me that they thought it was a deliberate scam just to clear room on the waiting lists.
More ‘phone calls, transfers etc. etc. later & I was given appointments to see the Anaesthetist & the Surgeon on December 20th & 22nd. They both cleared me immediately, & I was told that I was at the top of the waiting list.
A month later & I still didn’t have a date. I had made it clear over & over that January was the latest I could have the Op due to ending parental leave & looming work commitments. More ‘phone calls, aggravation, less hair & more wrinkles later & I was finally given another Pre-Op for: February 1st! We’d actually managed to push the deadline back a month so February would have OK, just. What Op date did they give me? March 22nd! 3 months after being cleared by the Surgeon, nearly 5 months after the last Op date!
I’ve given up.
The incompetence, stupidity, callous bureaucratic indifference & rudeness I’ve encountered has been staggering; bad even by British business standards. To stay I’m p*ssed off about this is 1 of the century’s understatements. My shoulder is painful & getting worse, & I’m having to carry two increasingly heavy & active babies around, & up & down 2 flights of stairs several times per day.
I am aware that there are many much more badly affected than me: people, including babies, have died needlessly due to negligence & incompetence here.
Even so, the NHS has badly let me down.
Sadly in my experience this is pretty typical NHS. Its clinical staff are among, if not the, best in the world; the admin & managerial staff are mostly utterly useless.
Believe it or not the point of this post isn’t just to have a rant. From where I’m sitting it’s clear that the NHS – to use a phrase from the last Government – is not “fit for purpose”. It needs radical reform.
I know the coalition Government are shaking things up; to be honest I don’t know the details. What I do know is that its hard to find anyone who thinks they’re doing the right thing.
Please don’t misunderstand me: free universal health care is something this country should always be proud of; an example to, & often the envy of, the world.
But that’s not much good to me when I can’t get the operation I badly need, or to the thousands of others who have had similar or worse experiences.
In its present form it’s just not working. What’s the solution? I don’t know. But it has to change.
- NHS bosses blocked my hospital food revamp, says Lloyd Grossman (dailymail.co.uk)