Wednesday 7 September 2011

The Titanic is for Turning

So. If you know me, you may have noticed some tweets lately about the appalling nature of the NHS. There have been two contributing factors to this, I must confess, the first which resulted in some scan results not being available from a sub-contractor the NHS were paying because the one person who had access to the results was on leave. This was, I am sad to say, only the final straw in what had become a farcical tale no one should have to endure.

The second experience was rather more pertinent to the point of this blog. The father of someone close to me used to be a very well man.

I'm sorry, this is going to be hard reading, I'll warn you now, if you don't want to, drop to the bottom, I'll put an obvious break in and you can read about my suggested solution to stop this happening again. But some people need to read this, hear about this, know about this because it's appalling. It really is.

So, a dear friends father used to be a 100% Egghead question answerer. Could, and regularly did recite the plotlines of Ian Rankin and John Connolly books. I used to enjoy those chats, it's rare up here to find fellow crime trash addicts. He was a nice chap, to be honest, reasonably easy to talk to, bright as a button. And I do mean, bright as a button. 70 something, used to be a postie, smoked since god knows when but never suffered from an ailment which needed a doctor for a day of his life.

Until Easter. When, if you remember, there was the small matter of some unfortunately placed Bank Holidays. Sadly for my friends father, this coincided with what had begun as an irritating toe infection becoming so swollen shoes wouldn't go on and sleep couldn't be had.

So off to the doctor they went. Who sent them straight to A & E. Where a consultant took a look, ordered an angiogram, prescribed 2 weeks worth of antibiotics and said it was urgent.

3 weeks later......

Yes. Nothing. The mans wife by this point was mad with worry. Her husbands toe was black and shrivelled. She phoned the angiogram department every single day, she phoned the doctor every single day, she phoned the pharmacy every single day to try and find out how she got more antibiotics, how she got the angiogram to happen, how she got help. She got batted from pillar to post and no one took ownership of the problem.

As a result, an ambulance was called, 4 weeks after Easter, ironically 3 days before the long awaited for angiogram appointment finally turned up on the doormat. You see, the man was doolally, shouting in his sleep and punching thin air - or his 60 something double kidney failure recovering from a stroke wife. Unacceptable. Off to A & E he went again.

He didn't come out of hospital until last week. In that time the following happened:
A toe amputation
3 day old sheets left for him to lie in covered in blood (there are pictures)
Nurses throwing hissy fits when called on the above
Periods of lucidity gradually diminishing to permanent dementia
Left on his own in a room with the door closed with an en suite toilet into which he regularly dumped the contents of the bin next to it containing medical waste
Fell out of his bed because the guards were not up (I assume) and broke his hip
Prior to this on a different occasion, fell out of bed flat onto his nose and gave himself a black eye
Lost 4 stone due to lack of food (fussy eater/dementia but no effort to investigate)
Stents in both femoral arteries

He was moved to a home last week after a meeting 2 werks prior to that, finally with social workers, nurses and other medical professionals. Apparently, there was a lot of scribbling. The wife was told at this point the results of an MRI carried out some 6 weeks prior which showed destruction to the frontal lobe which is permanent and irreversible. Vascular dementia. She still has not been told what kicked all of this off in the first place. She was told that if the stents didn't work he would need a double leg amputation.

The final hilarity? A GP called at his house this morning. His old house where his wife still lives. Apparently the care home are concerned about his foot which is swelling again and had asked for a call out visit. They nor the hospital appear to have updated the GP practice on his change of address, but hell, at least the wife was kept in the loop, at least if only accidentally.

If you detect certain emotions in this account, well done. Biting sarcasm, bitterness, resentment, laughter, derision, shock....all these things my dear dear friend has felt and by extension so have I. I care for him and therefore to see him watching his father and by extension his mother going through this has been upsetting, traumatic, painful.

So why am I telling you all this finally? This reason for my disenchantment?

I tweeted this evening a pipedream, one this whole experience has screamed to me the need for - some kind of tablet or device which follows each individual patient around, which we all hold in our pockets or purses or handbags which can only be accessed by us and our next of kin. Which holds everything about us. Which can be overridden by designated health professionals on calling in to our designated GP who also will hold the code. Which would mean that every ambulance crew would know our history instantly. Which would mean that those of sound mind could add to documents bespoke to our conditions which would allow us to record the trials and successes of managing our conditions. Which could be removed from our care when we entered a hospital environment and which would be tagged to the wall behind the A & E doctor station and be constantly updated through a quick and easy set of medical/biograde screen protectored touch screens. This would then follow the patient either back to the GP or to the ward. On the ward it would go behind the nurses station. It would beep when drugs were due. It would beep when sheets needed to be changed. It would be used to order food choices from the kitchen, to order drugs from the pharmacy.

It would be the centre. But it would be backed up in case of loss. It would be bestowed on Next of Kin if the patient were not of sound mind, or perhaps a Personal Assistant or other designated carer such as a care home point of contact.

It would use token technology for security. It would send reminders of folllow ups until follow up appointments would made, it would deliver results (but with caveats possible if they needed a GP chat to be delivered).

In 140 characters I shared my pipedream and 4 different people told me it was possible, it was being looked at and it was not such a pipedream after all.

And I can close the book now. Put the experience in the box it belongs it in and stop it tainting my view of everyone who works under those three letters. You see, it's easy to tar everyone in a massive Titanic organisation with the same brush. It's not so easy to understand that the lifeboats are going out and they're coming to save us.

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