One of the things that’s preventing us from escaping from hospital, four months after G was admitted for a week-to-ten-day stay, is a lack of the right equipment to care for G at home. (We are also undersupplied with suitably-trained people, but that’s another story.) Part of the problem is being in a hospital miles away from home: equipment will have to be provided by our local CCG, which uses different suppliers from the hospital, so getting the right thing prescribed is a tedious business.
Some stuff has been organised quickly; hospital therapists have contacted the the local-to-home services and got them to arrange for the local-to-the-hospital outpost of the CCG’s suppliers to come in, hand over the goods, do the training, and then G’s Papa hauls everything back to our house after weekend visits. But for one piece of equipment, we were sent an appointment letter for a clinic assessment in the next town over from where we live. Obviously we can’t get there while G’s in hospital miles away and not allowed off the ward, so I phoned the clinic and said, if I get the hospital therapists to assess G, will you take their findings and use them to provide a suitable bit of kit? The clinic therapist seemed amenable, so I asked the ward staff to arrange a consultation with the hospital equivalent.
That was ten days ago, and nothing has happened since. I’ve made enquiries, and received reassuring noises, but by yesterday, I was beginning to get irritated. Wednesday’s nurse claimed to have made several phone calls during the day, without ever getting an answer.
“Where is the therapy department office?”
“I think it’s on the lower ground floor, on the outpatients side, near medical photography.”
I trotted off downstairs, across the enormous central lobby, and down more stairs to the basement level. A corridor was signposted for Therapies, and I followed it along, around a right-angle, and towards a glass door leading into an exterior light-well, where dead leaves and other lightweight rubbish swirled in a mini-tornado. Just before the glass door, a wooden one on my left bore a sign proclaiming it to be the Therapies Office, so I rapped on it. It was opened by a youngish chap in a uniform tunic.
“Hello, is there a therapist I could speak to, please?”
He ushered me in and led me over to a woman in a mauve uniform, who was seated at a computer workstation. I explained that I had come to see if it was possible to get an urgent assessment appointment for Grenouille, to help expedite discharge, and once I’d explained what was needed, the therapist said, “Just make a request via inpatient referrals.”
“I thought the ward nurses had already done that. Could you check if it’s on the system, please?”
“Can’t you do that?”
“No, I don’t have access.”
She looked simultaneously confused and horrified. “What? Don’t you work here?”
“So who are you, then? What are you doing in the office?”
“I came to find out what had happened with G’s assessment and your colleague invited me in. I’m G’s mother.”
The therapist’s expression suggested that the sky had fallen on her head and she was about to pass out from the blow.
“You’re just a parent?”
The woman at the next workstation over, in the dark-blue that denotes a senior staff member, turned round at that, with a look on her face that said, ‘I can’t believe I’ve heard you say that, you utter numpty’.
“Not just a parent,” she said, mimicking the therapist’s intonation reprovingly. “Never ‘just’ a parent!”
The mauve therapist now looked equal parts embarrassed and annoyed.
“I still need an inpatient referral,” she said.
I went back up to the ward and found the staff nurse sitting behind another computer terminal.
“Nursey, my lovely, could you check if there’s an inpatient referral for an assessment for that piece of kit we were discussing?”
He rummaged for a bit.
“Oh, no, there isn’t.”
“Could you do one now, do you think?”
“Um, yes, sure, what would you like it to say?”
I thought back to my days of dictating local authority reports for council meetings, and gave him a five-sentence summary of G’s situation and needs, emphasising the urgency of the referral. He typed it in, I corrected his misspellings, and off it whirred into the ether.
Possibly, my very official-looking ‘Hello, my name is…’ badge, which I acquired in a fit of indignation after the MDT where everyone got referred to by name, with the single exception of ‘Mum’, helped throw the therapist, particularly as I wasn’t wearing Katherine Runswick-Cole’s accompanying ‘Don’t Call Me Mum’ badge. (I’ve saved that for MDTs.)
The whole episode does say a lot about the hierarchical nature of hospitals, though. I have a theory that hospitals still have a hangover from being organised on quasi-military lines, owing to their modern roots in Florence Nightingale’s irruption into the Crimean War. Indeed, the whole NHS arguably suffers from the same condition. Of course, Miss Nightingale was perceived as a great disruptor in her time, but her ways of organising got co-opted into hospital provision during two world wars, and the NHS itself, born in the aftermath of WWII, had many staff who’d been in the Services just a few years earlier. The initial assumptions still, I think, trickle through. For all the talk of patient-centredness, there’s a continuing expectation that if certain people say, “Jump!”, other people will say, “How high?”; and of course those other people are never, ever allowed to say, “Jump!” themselves.
I have no regrets at all about saying that I am not built for jumping. Never have been; even when I did ballet classes as a child and teenager, and was considerably more slender than I am now, no-one could have accused me of having an excess of ballon. On the other hand, I will cheerfully put my hand up to being a motormouth. I take pride in my ability to make good use of my voice. In my opinion (which is the only one that really matters to me, apart from G’s and P’s) I am ROCKING pro-active caring. Anyone muttering, “Pushy Mum,” can get in the bin.