Envy of Who?

7 Jan

Sprog 1 had suspected appendicitis just before the holidays. At 13 she’s not prone to faking illness so when she doubled up after tea one night in some considerable pai60logon I whisked her up to A&E at Perth Royal Infirmary. We were there about an hour during which she had her history taken, an examination and a urine test.  Finally I was told (and I have since learned that these are the words that make the hearts of parents all over Perth & Kinross just sink), to take her through to Ninewells hospital in Dundee. The children’s ward at Perth is only operational between 9am and 5pm. No-one even asked if I had any means of getting to Dundee. Welcome to DIY-NHS.

After stopping off at home for parking money we eventually got to Ninewells at the back of 8. I then had to all but carry her (she’s my height ffs), all through the hospital to Ward 29, down several flights of stairs in a darkened and seemingly deserted building. Think 28 Days Later. We then dragged ourselves through the children’s ward past sleeping babies completely unhindered and unchallenged after a parent let us in (the staff having ignored us – one of their better developed skills ).

Having already cleared A&E I naively thought that going to the ward meant going to the ward – ha! They took blood at 9pm and in all spent another hour repeating what doctors at Perth A&E had already done. We were subdued with their advice that they would “need to keep her in overnight for observation”.  At 11pm I phoned home as the “NHS-hour” it takes for lab results had stretched to over 2 and I still couldn’t get anyone to confirm that she was going to be admitted. Finally, at midnight, we walked out. I gave up when I was told at 11:55pm that we had to wait for a non-paediatric surgeon to come over and announce the results of her blood test.  My 4 hour parking ticket was about to expire anyway.

I don’t believe they had any intention of admitting her and we were not the only ones who were left languishing in that 3m2 waiting area for hours on end that night. I believe they kept us all there to see if any of the children deteriorated enough to warrant admission. A couple from Fife with their 2½ year old and 10 month old twins walked out at 11:30pm  having spent over 5 hours there with no water, no food and no care. The boy who was discharged just as we were arriving was from Perth. An ambulance brought in 2 toddlers, one from Perth and the other from Crieff (optimistically shifted into her jammies whilst waiting to see a doctor!). The young couple next to me had spent who knows how much on a taxi… from Perth. Apart from the wee Fifer, all the children in that referral room should have been treated in Perth. Furthermore, and somewhat oddly, there wasn’t one single child from Dundee. which is bizarre when you consider that Dundee is almost 5 times the size of Perth.

In November 2008 a baby from Perth died after twice being sent home from Ninewells hospital. I have no idea what it takes to get a screaming, exhausted child out of that GP referral area into a bed but a life threatening illness and multiple visits doesn’t seem to do it.  At least my daughter was able to contribute meaningfully towards the decision to go home without a diagnosis.  When we got home I asked Neil to phone the ward for the results of her blood test and they told him they had come back normal – 3 hours we waited and they told him over the phone. I am absolutely certain it’s because they (the results) had lost their leverage as a means of keeping us confined there.

As we were preparing to leave Ninewells, in a last ditch attempt to detain us, a nurse told us we couldn’t go… I was very good, but honestly? The staff on the ward knew her results were clear and they watched us walk out without telling us. I don’t believe NHS staff get a fraction of the smacks in the face customers feel like giving them.

I asked for a complaint form at Perth before I left for Dundee and the girl on the desk more or less told me I’d be wasting my time, it’s not their fault! I pointed out that my complaint was about the structure of paediatric provision and that if nobody complained then those who can change it would be entitled to think that the parents of Perth are satisfied and we are far from satisfied. But she’s probably right about wasting my time. So, being an NHS customer, and not a recipient I shall exercise my right as a customer to try other providers before I ever set foot in Ninewells hospital again. Next time one of the sprogs is ill (something painless and curable please fate, if you’re listening and in anyway tempted)  I will demand a referral to Stirling or Kirkcaldy or anywhere else I can drive to in less than the 5 hours I spent on a trip to Ninewells.

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One Response to “Envy of Who?”

  1. chris January 8, 2009 at 12:00 am #

    Good God. I thought we lived in a difficult place – but the Western Ferries will turn out to take people over to Inverclyde if necessary in the middle of the night. I’ve done the appendix trip so that my 13 year old could be in a children’s ward – but his appendix was removed after he’d sent me back to school to photocopy the bits of the school magazine which he was responsible for! Go for it with the protests…

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