The View From A Council Estate: NHS Chaos For Poor People

 

CONTENT WARNING: some people may find parts of this article upsetting

Welcome to The View From A Council Estate.

Every Sunday, I'll be breaking down the big news stories. And I'll also be sorting through other news. The stuff that maybe hasn't made the headlines. But I'll show you how it affects people on council estates like mine across the UK. 

Be warned: no filter, here. This is me, writing how I speak in everyday life. So expect a bit of swearing. There'll be a bit of a laugh (hopefully). But there'll also be plenty of takes that you won't find elsewhere.

Remember: this article is as much about you as it is me and my estate. So give me your views on social media. Use #TheViewFromACouncilEstate. Thank you to everyone who commented and got involved last week. Your feedback was kind and appreciated. 

This week is all about 'the NHS chaos'. Under attack from the Tories. Struggling with coronavirus. But ultimately failing the people who need it most. And that's the most tragic part, as I'll show you.

Let's go.

The collapsing NHS

You don't need me telling you about the state of the NHS. We should live by the phrase 'health before wealth'. But under the Tories, it's the opposite. Instead of me ranting about Johnson & Co, I want to tell you a story about our neighbour. It's his and his wife's battle with the NHS. I'll call him 'TJ'. And it sums up the experiences of many people.

Meet TJ

UPDATE: there is the latest news, as of 5:00pm on Tuesday 6 October, about TJ's situation at the bottom of this article. 

TJ's 71; worked all his life; raised three children and is now retired. A year ago, he fell down the stairs and was unable to get back up again. After a stay in hospital the doctors diagnosed him with Alzheimer's. Someone stole TJ's phone while he was there, too. 

Since then, TJ has gone down hill. His Alzheimer's has got worse. He can now barely walk. TJ lives in a hospital bed in his front room. His wife lives with a chronic, genetic illness. She is his full time unpaid carer. But recently TJ has got really bad.

His wife called 111 three weekends ago. TJ's vision was blurry. He hadn't eaten or drunk anything in four days and was unable to get out of bed. The operator sent an on-call doctor around. They said that he didn't need to be put into hospital. The doctor told him he needed to start eating and taking the vitamins that had been prescribed. TJ said he would. 

Since then, he's got worse. He now hasn't eaten a proper meal in nearly a month. He's just been nibbling on a custard tart every so often. TJ is barely drinking anything. He now weighs around five stone, if that - and he's 5' 11" tall. When I saw him the other day he looked like he was dying. He is complaining of severe pain in his gut and is unable to move. He's lost control of his bowel and bladder. His wife is having to change his bed sheets every morning.

But no one is helping them. 

No help

She called 999 on Wednesday 30 September. Paramedics came and took him to King's College Hospital. His wife couldn't go with him. This was due to coronavirus rules. So, TJ was sat in A&E for over six hours, on his own. At 12am on Thursday 1 October, King's College Hospital sent him home. It refused to admit him on the grounds that he didn't want to be there. Bear in mind, he has Alzheimer's. The A&E consultant told TJ's wife that he "couldn't have possibly not eaten for nearly a month". In other words, they didn't believe her. 

No one called his wife to tell him TJ was on his way. She got a knock on the door at 1am. It was TJ with a hospital porter who had driven him home. While he was at A&E he had lost both pairs of glasses and £10. Or, someone had stolen them. By 5am he was still in a lot of pain. His wife phoned 111 and they said to call his GP. His wife did this. The receptionist put her on a waiting list for a call back from a doctor.

This never happened.

Let down

So, we stepped in on Friday 2 October. We rung TJ's doctors surgery on his behalf and explained the situation fully. A GP rang his wife shortly after. They were shocked that King's hadn't admitted him. So, they spoke with another hospital. It said it would arrange to scan his gut area in the next two weeks. The GP also said they would send the district nurse to visit TJ that day. This was to check on him and his eating. 

The district nurse never turned up. So, the GP has left them with no support for the whole weekend. By Saturday 3 October at 2pm, TJ had eaten half a cake since Thursday. His wife is exhausted, and her back is now extremely painful. She's at the end of her tether. And there's currently no hope in sight. How he'll be by the time this article is published, no-one knows. But in my opinion, he is on the verge of starving to death.

Where do you want me to begin with this fucking mess? 

Professional chaos

King's A&E, based on TJ's two experiences and mine with my partner, is a shit-show. The Care Quality Commission said it 'needs improvement'. As with much of the NHS, it is overworked and under-staffed. But that doesn't excuse the attitude of the consultant who didn't believe TJ hadn't eaten in nearly a month. And it doesn't excuse the fact that they listened to a dementia patient who told them they we're feeling "OK". 

The GP has never offered TJ memantine or donepezil. These are drugs which slow the progression of Alzheimer's. They also sometimes lessen its symptoms. I know all about them because my mother is on Memantine. It has stopped the progression of her Alzheimer's really well. So, I know that clinically there was no reason the GP could not give it or Donepezil to TJ.  

But our local doctors surgery is also a shit-show. TJ and his wife have been seeing the same GP for years. They have repeatedly failed to act to help him or the family. The only reason things are progressing now is because a different GP is involved. 

Why has this happened? It's called the postcode lottery.

The postcode lottery

I moved my family from the doctors surgery in question. We now use one outside of our area. This was because the GPs were, sadly, fucking awful. My partner's treatment got so bad we officially complained. This is the GP that told her her 17 illnesses and conditions were all mental health-related. We had a meeting with the practice manager, but nothing changed. So we moved. 

Here's where the problems lie: The old GP (TJ's one) has around 8,000 patients it sees. Our new one has just over 4,000. Our estate is one of the poorest in England. TJ's GP has to manage a lot of people with chronic health conditions. Our new GP is in one of the richest areas of our borough. So, wealth here does equal health. 

Meanwhile, the NHS has left TJ unable to eat, hardly drink and with no control over his bladder or bowel movements. His wife is having to lift and move him. She has to clean up his pee and poo from the bed. And the GP has given her no support either. Previously, social services assessed them. This was last year. And it decided TJ wasn't entitled to support. So, the situation is actually dangerous for both of them.

But what if I told you TJ was also a Sun-reading, right-wing alcoholic racist? You'd probably describe him as fat-free 'gammon'. Has that sympathy you just had for him disappeared? I hope it hasn't. Because it shouldn't. Not really. And here's why.

TJ's background

TJ grew up in the aftermath of WWII. He tells stories of playing in bombed-out houses that littered this part of south London. Schooling in this poverty-stricken area was poor. TJ left his school unable to read and barely able to write. But he was good with his hands - being quite a talented artist and wood/metal worker. And he can bake a mean cake, too. 

He spent most of his life working as a floor layer. "Not a carpet fitter" he often says. "Anyone can do that". There's quite an art to laying a good tiled floor, apparently. And TJ was able to do detailed and intricate designs with ease. His work was in demand. Lots of it was for government and public contracts. He often tells stories about laying floors in underground MI5 and military bases (no, really) - which had their own road networks the size of dual carriage motorways. Allegedly, obviously. 

He was very good at his job. But then the Tories came to power. 

Ground down

During the 1980s, his work became hit-and-miss. Sometimes he wouldn't have a job for months on end. So, the-then "DSS" had to help. And he and his family of three were always on-and-off social security. It wasn't their fault. Then the recession of the early 1990s hit. Two more children were born. They were all living in a two-up, two-down council terrace. And things got worse. 

TJ was your typical 'drink at the pub after work' man, but three children and a sudden lack of work took its toll. A few drinks after work turned into a lot every day. His GP recognised this in the late 1990s. Yet they did nothing to help him. TJ tried to stop, but he never managed to get a grip on his drinking. 

In the area he was living in, the far right was dominant. The influence of organised fascists like the BNP and the NF was real and dangerous. Plus, the right-wing media during the time of Margaret Thatcher and John Major was all-powerful. The deaths of TJ's parents also hit him hard. And back then, there was no such thing as grief counselling for people like him.

So, all this made TJ what he was. A post-war upbringing. Poor education. The ideas that society pushed on him about a 'man having to provide for his family'. His shame and frustration when he couldn't. Tories and right-wing media telling him to blame everyone else but them for his problems. The on-the-ground fascists exploiting all of this. And no one to support him. 

People can change

But TJ changed his views over the years. He now has a dual heritage grandson who he loves dearly. And with some persuasion, he stopped buying the Daily Mail. Small victories, hey? 

The point is, TJ isn't a bad person. He's a product of the system. Much like the rest of us are. What's interesting is that politicians never managed to change TJ's views. People like us, speaking to him on his level, have. He has barely been drinking alcohol for the past few months, either.

TJ's still intolerant at times. 'Immigrants' sometimes crop up, but with more sympathy now. When you only have the BBC and tabloid newspapers for company - what do you expect? None of this makes TJ someone I wouldn't speak to or help. Because his life and how it's turned out isn't his fault. 

I'm not defending some of his views. But I am trying to understand where they've come from.

So, when thinking about people on council estates, maybe we all need to be a bit more thoughtful sometimes. That is - people are as much a sum of the system's parts as we are. But often politically the other way. 

It's all too easy to dismiss people as 'right wing' and 'racist'. Some people are. There's a particularly nasty example living behind us. But we maybe sometimes need to look deeper than just the surface. Because until we work out why people are like they are - we'll never be able to change their minds.

UPDATE on last week's The View From A Council Estate

Remember the disabled person from Kent I told you about last week? They were having dramas with their housing association. Well, it's not got better. You can read the full story here. But they wanted me to tell you all this:

So, when I first moved in here our gardeners were great, they asked what we wanted doing in our garden and took their time. They lost the contract as they were charging a higher price, and a new team took over. Instead of spending the afternoon in the shared garden, they now spend 10 minutes max, after removing the protective bush that separates us from the neighbour's house which has hybrid wolves. I complained last October and I contacted the housing ass (Orbit) as the dogs jump through to our garden, and with us all being vulnerable tenants, it now does not feel safe to go into the garden. Orbit took responsibility as it was their gardeners that removed the bush.

So far, so not good:

After the fence didn't get fixed in the timescale it was promised, I contacted the community manager. He promised me it would be fixed by 31 January. In February it was still not fixed. Since then, I have contacted them so many times and the job keeps getting marked as complete, even though it's not. So let's fast forward to the seventh contractor visit on 24 September. The contractor came out and said 'it's too much work', then sat in his van for an hour outside my flat, then left and never came back. I contacted the housing and they said the jobs been marked as complete. I explained the contractor did nothing apart from complain about how much work it was, then left. 

"Messing with the wrong tenant"

They continued:

So the lady in the office was meant to forward this to the resolutions team so they could phone me back within 48 hours, I waited 72 hours, then contacted them and found out the lady hadn't emailed the resolutions team and the job had been marked as complete again. They contacted the community manager who told me i'ts out of his hands, there's nothing he can do now, and still, one year later, the fence is broken and we as a flat block do not feel safe to go into our garden. 

I feel like they're just fobbing me off until I get tired of complaining and give up. The thing is, each of the seven times these contractors have been to measure the fence, they have been paid to do so. So basically paid for doing nothing, and yet here we are with no fence and not feeling safe to go into the garden. And again I am waiting 48 hours now for a call back from resolutions, but I have no faith they will actually contact me. So I will be on the phone complaining again. I am not going to give up with this! They are messing with the wrong tenant. 

What a clusterfuck. I'll be keeping you all updated with their situation.

I ain't even got the time...

To talk about Trump. Is it coronavirus? The flu? The plague? Or something he caught from the dye in that syrup of his? Who knows.

I also ain't got time to talk about steaming pile of shit Dan Hodges. 'Red Sarah' royally owned him this week. She showed him up for the rank hypocrite he is:

Nor have I got time to mention James O'Brien. Another shitty corporate journalist who was also owned by a strong woman of Twitter, Lina:

And I can't even mention a certain SNP MP smashing the coronavirus rules to bits. One rule for them, a whole lot of other fucking ones for the rest of us. Even for the quickly-becoming 'Tartan Tories' (TJ's name for them, not mine).

I hope this week's The View From A Council Estate made you laugh/think/offended/sad.

Until next Sunday, take it easy.  

Oh, and if you want to support me writing this (I'm doing it for free) then you can donate via PayPal below. Much respect.


UPDATE ONE ON TJ:

On Monday 5 October TJ was still very poorly. He had managed to eat around two-thirds of a croissant since Sunday 4 October, and a few sips of orange juice. 

His wife called the GP. The receptionist told her that the doctor they spoke to on Friday 2 October only works once a week. And, they had no idea when the district nurse was going to be visiting.

So, TJ's situation continues to deteriorate.

We passed on all your kind and thoughtful messages to his wife. She was overwhelmed and very grateful. So, thank you from her, TJ and us.

UPDATE TWO ON TJ, 9:30am 6 October:

I contacted both TJ's MP, Labour's Ellie Reeves, and our local Labour councillor asking them to intervene in the situation. This was at 9:20am on Tuesday 6 October.

UPDATE THREE ON TJ, 2pm 6 October:

His wife rang the district nurse at around 10:30am on Tuesday 6 October. She got a call back from them at 1:30pm. They said they had NOT received a referral from TJ's GP. This meant his wife had to call the GP and start the whole process again. Unbelievable. 

UPDATE FOUR ON TJ, 8am 7 October:

Finally, after several hours of going backwards and forwards with the GP, a hospital admitted him at 9:30pm on 6 October. He is in the ambulatory unit. We discovered through his medical records that the previous Friday, another GP had tried to get him admitted to this unit. But the doctor in charge of it refused to take him. The other GP's notes also failed to make the seriousness of the situation clear. His local MP, Labour's Ellie Reeves, has offered her support. 

More to follow. 

Comments

  1. OMG this brought me to tears. What can we do?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for highlighting this which is nothing short of a tragedy bordering on attempted corporate murder by some of the people who should be better at helping those poor unfortunate people. I am at a loss why people keep voting the Tories in and even sadder that we have lost Jeremy Corbyn who would have been the peoples champion?

    ReplyDelete
  3. We, the British people seem to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
    When are we going to realise that the people who are supposed to represent ordinary working class people are morally & legally corrupt.
    Sadly it seems like TJ has just been thrown onto the scrap heap.
    He should be getting a lot more help than what he's getting, which lets face it is practically non existent.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My cousin aged 54 died recently suddenly and unexpectedly, he was the sole carer for his widowed dad, I’ve taken over but I’m also looking after my dad and I have fibromyalgia. My uncle has fallen twice in a week, social services have gone awol, the GP is trying to help and is sending nurse out to do blood tests and blood pressure. My other aunty has been in a nursing home for 3 months now, no one is allowed to visit her, she doesn’t even know her nephew is dead, we couldn’t tell her because it wouldn’t be fair to leave her on her own with that information and no emotional support. I’m so angry and despairing, I’ve cried every day since I lost my cousin, who I was very close to, we grew up together.

    ReplyDelete

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