The Road to Recovery: No wonder the NHS is strapped for cash…
Two significant achievements this week: I finally took delivery of an NHS wheelchair (brand new too, it even had the shrink wrap on the wheels). I also managed to return at least one piece of the impressive haul of highly specialised equipment I’ve been collecting.
Which would you think was the more difficult?
Obtaining the wheelchair would be the obvious answer anywhere other than in the middle of a re-boot of the X Files.
It is true that a welcome surprise of the past few months has been just how easy it has been to get hold of the type of specialist equipment required to allow someone with my suite of injuries to live at home rather than in hospital. Not to mention several adaptations to said home.
The cost of it all probably amounts to something in excess of £1000. That money has bought an extra set of bannisters on two sets of stairs, a pair of crutches, a bath board, two walking frames and a commode (a bit embarrassing but necessary in the early days when just standing up felt like ascending Kilimanjaro).
If you think about it, though, that is actually money well spent. Without the equipment and modifications I’d be stuck in some horrid rehab ward popping prozac like the boss of the Greek equivalent of Britain’s Debt Management Office, at horrendous cost to the tax payer.
Getting the equipment (and modifications) has worked like this: Someone visits the house, sees that there is a need for X piece of equipment or Y modification. They make a phone call and as if by a wave of Harry Potter’s wand, it appears. If only every part of the NHS worked thus, it really would be the envy of the world.
Based on that, you’d think getting hold of a wheelchair would be relatively simple. After all, as equipment goes they’re not that specialised. They’re not even all that expensive – I priced one up recently. You can get a whizzy lightweight self propelled super duper one for a hundred and forty quid. That’s less than the cost of an iPod touch.
But unlike all the other stuff, getting one on the NHS is about as easy as obtaining tickets for next year’s Olympic 100 metres final. Scratch that: getting one is about as easy as getting any tickets for next year’s jamboree.
First of all you have to get a referral from a GP. That then gets passed around here there and every where, while you twiddle your thumbs. Then you get an appointment for an “assessment visit” (expect a wait of several days, and possibly longer if you can’t make the first appointment and fail to kick up a fuss).
The assessment visit (when it happens) involves answering one of those lengthy questionnaires which, to my admittedly paranoid mind, appears designed to prevent you getting what you need.
But if you’re lucky (I was) they’ll then measure you up and there’ll be another wait for the thing to arrive. Mine came last week and I was tempted to open a bottle of champers, only I had a rotten cold and I’m not really supposed to drink (this is where that no alcohol Becks Blue stuff is a life saver – you can at least pretend you’re having a beer with your, erm, October barbecue).
But getting the wheelchair wasn’t the main achievement. The real achievement of the last week was that we actually managed to give some of the more easily obtained equipment (the commode, which come to think of it is a chair with wheels on it) back. No, not drinking doesn’t mean I’ve substituted something illegal. Returning the kit you’ve been given once you’re done with it is a nearly impossible task.
This is apparently because of policy on infection control.
Now, as someone who was found have picked up drug resistant MRSA during my stay in hospital I can understand just how important that is. Actually, unless you get it into an open wound, picking up drug resistant MRSA isn’t harmful to most people. All it means they stick a scary sign up above your hospital alcove/room, give you some cream to rub on the “infected area” (in my case, my nose) and make you wash with foul smelling pink soap. Other than being told I’d got the plague, which is what it initially felt like to me given all I’ve been through, the pink soap was actually the most unpleasant consequence.
Still, it strikes me as rather odd that giving things like walking frames a lick of disinfectant is not cost effective. Or maybe it shouldn’t strike me as all that odd, given the record of some hospital trusts when it comes to infection control.
We finally managed to return the commode largely thanks to a wonderful French occupational therapist called Maddy. It’s down to her that we have got a lot our of equipment/home modifications. She’s one of those miraculous people who just seems to be able to get things done, despite layers and layers of impenetrable bureaucracy that manage to thwart almost everyone else. And she arranged for its collection.
But we still have a Zimmer, and a gutter frame (which is rather larger, has arm rests, and bizarrely costs as much as the aforementioned whizzy wheelchair) that nobody seems to want back. And that’s just for starters.
To me it seems terribly wrong to think this kit could end up sitting in my garage, gathering dust when there is nothing inherently wrong with it. I’d even be willing to wash it down with disinfectant in front of someone, if that would do the trick.
All of a sudden, I’m starting to wonder if the reason wheelchairs are so hard to get is because they too aren’t cost effective to take back on grounds of “infection control”. And if this is ultimately why I got a brand new one.Tagged in: nhs, recovery, rehabilitation, RTA
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