They say a society is judged by the way it treats its elderly…
but should it not be measured by the way it treats all its vulnerable people, young and old?
I am probably stating the ‘bleeding obvious’ when I say that many cut backs intended to increase efficiency, do precisely the reverse. The result is that we are letting down disabled people, those with special needs, children from poor backgrounds and any other vulnerable person you can name.
You may have noticed that I was in hospital quite a lot, a couple of years ago. Nothing sinister, just a series of unfortunate events. Hospitals took the brunt of my frustration at the time because despite the best intentions of the caring and overworked staff, my experience was awful. Mainly, it seems to me, as the result of cut backs and consequent inefficiencies.
At that time, a Magicbhunkshire A&E had been closed and its ambulances diverted to ‘The Saville’. Their numbers were woefully underestimated and the result was medical staff: without time to communicate, washed out and exhausted, with little or no time for a bedside manner. How could that have been allowed to happen?
The definition of efficiency, according to one of my past college lecturers is simply getting the job done. This may be a bit simplistic and I prefer the ratio of useful work performed, to total energy expended.
In the case of the hospital, the result of all the ‘unexpected’ ambulances meant that people like me sat and waited for about 20 hours all told. It meant that qualified doctors must resort to running round the hospital to locate crutches that had not been returned to their proper place. It meant forms were missing from drawers. It meant staff at the reception desk were sending people to the wrong departments. There was almost certainly more unnecessary expenditure of energy that I was not privy to during my various trips to A&E and beyond.
My experience of working in the public sector has also exposed inefficiencies brought about because the establishment was so preoccupied with meeting its targets that it failed to see how much money it was wasting through neglect of other aspects (not its fault). As a result I wasted hours of my paid time trying to print a simple document, I searched for lengthy periods for a PC that would connect to the internet, I wandered around seeking people who had been sent on unscheduled business with no thought for communicating the fact to others.
What all these establishments seem to need are procedures, people to police them, and an understanding of the needs of others, i.e. to be able to act as members of a team. I don’t know if there would be a cost benefit given the amount of training required. I wouldn’t like to be the person to analyse it, but even if it broke even (if you get my gist), how much happier staff and customers would be. How much better the press coverage and rate of error.
When I read on the BBC News that special disablity hospitals are being closed, that young people are being released from care onto the streets with nowhere to go and no job, that NHS 111 calls are overwhelming staff at call centres so that some have to be diverted to 999, I have to wonder if whoever is making decisions about where to cut back, is getting it woefully wrong. The government places financial pressure on County Councils and relies on their members to make the difficult choice as to whose budgets should be affected. The decisions are made and responsibility for administering the cuts is passed down the line to people with a subjective view, and so the problems persist.
From my limited perspective, and I would be interested to hear arguments from people with a broader view, what we need is better administration and communication. People who have time to walk the hospital/school/council corridors and watch, listen and discuss what is really going wrong. Then they need to put in place these procedures I am so fond of, and ensure that they are followed, all the time.
We must look after our vulnerable. It should not be left to charities to struggle to provide hospices, youth cafes, drug rehabilitation centres, veteran care and so much more. Our public services should be a matter of pride, not apology. We as a society have a responsibility. NOBODY wants to see the homeless sleeping in shop doorways, people shooting up in cold flats, beating hell out of their kids and worse, or committing violent crimes because they feel they have no further choice. There has to be a line, a ring fence, to protect the (efficient) services that help these people, along with a strategy to run them. Protecting the vulnerable, also protects the rest of society.