Saturday, November 12, 2011

Our Brush with the NHS

I used to be the kind of person who saw the doctor so infrequently that she had to blow the metaphorical dust off my records when I made a visit, but, since the boy came to stay, I've become something of a frequent flyer.  If it's not the many immunisations then it's DNA tests or LAC medicals or whatever.

This week it was an unpleasant case of what I call 'ruttly chest'.  He started with it last weekend and by the Monday morning, in my non-expert opinion, it seemed to have developed into a proper old chest infection.  So I dutifully phoned the Doctor's, only to be told that the next available appointment would be Friday afternoon.

This caused me to pause for quite a while on the phone until the silence lengthened out to a point where the receptionist had to check that I was still there!

My dilemma was as follows: I could make a fuss, say it's an emergency and harp on about his very young age and almost certainly would be given a much sooner appointment.  On the other hand, it could well be just a cold and then I would be the hysterical woman making a massive deal out of a cold and I don't want to be that person!  And to be fair to my GP, you don't normally have to wait so long for an appointment, so I wasn't especially inclined to push it.

Instead, I decided to run him up to the walk-in centre after his contact on Monday afternoon and see if I could get somebody to quickly run a stethoscope over his chest.

Due to recent cutbacks in emergency provision, our local A&E has been closed, and the walk-in centre has been moved into what used to be A&E.  It has also been renamed 'Urgent Care Centre'.  I didn't know this, and must admit to wavering in my resolve somewhat when I realised I would have to walk into a building which to me is still A&E and has 'URGENT' written all over it, carrying a baby with what could be a mild cold.

Still, I pressed ahead, but was dismayed even further when I saw the number of people in the waiting area.  Undaunted, we booked ourselves in and took our seat, and I began the tricky game of trying to work out how long we'd be waiting.  This is not as easy as you might think.  The number of people in the waiting room bears absolutely no relation to the number of people actually wanting to be seen by a doctor.

For instance, shortly after my arrival, a party of 5 walked in.  Apparently, the daughter, aged about 10, had 'hurt her foot'.  I'm thinking she can't have hurt it that badly since she was walking on it.  Quite why it was necessary to bring not only the injured party but also the brother, both parents and a grandparent was beyond me.  Equally baffling was the gang of girls chatting in a corner who periodically stepped outside of the doors to use their phones or have a quick smoke.  I couldn't work out which one of them required urgent care.  It seems that every person who visits the Urgent Care Centre is obliged to come with an entourage that wouldn't look out of place with Simon Cowell!  I seriously considered phoning some of my friends to come down so that the boy wouldn't feel inadequate!

Consequently, our wait was actually quite short, and I have to say, the medical workover that the boy was given was very impressive.  A nurse came and listened to his chest, took his SATs, temperature and pulse, watched him breathe and cooed over him in a most gratifying way.  Then a doctor came and listened to his chest, checked his chart and clucked over him.  Following that another nurse came in and re-did all the tests that the first nurse had done, although with slightly less grace.  By this time, I was almost hoping that it would turn out to be a bona fide chest infection or else surely all these professionals would be grumbling about the crazy woman the minute I'd left.

In the end, the doctor came back and pronounced it a 'viral infection', i.e. a cold.  It was a rather more sheepish me that left the Urgent Care Centre than entered it.

I must just finish the story off by telling you that we did attend Friday's GP appointment after all as the ruttly chest situation had not improved at all over the intervening few days.  My lovely GP had a quick listen and immmediately identified the rattling that I could both hear and feel at the bottom of his chest as basal creps, meaning that, yes, he has a chest infection.

I'm pretty sure that our adventures with the yellow, foul-smelling antibiotic medicine will be a whole other story though!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrities Weigh in for National Adoption Week

National Adoption Week is upon us and unsurprisingly a crop of celebrities have been called upon by various news programmes to give their opinions.  But how useful are their views?

Undoubtedly, using celebrities can help to raise the profile of the issue, and I'm all in favour of that, but are their anecdotal tales really any substitute for informed opinions from experts who work in the field?

Amongst others, the BBC news programmes have called upon Saira Khan and author Jeanette Winterson as part of their coverage of the story.

Saira Khan's adoption of a baby, Amara, from Pakistan has been well-publicised and was the subject of a two-part doumentary.  She undoubtedly has been through a profound personal journey, but her views as expressed on the BBC news programme that I saw were somewhat naive.

Calling for a speeding up of the adoption process, she spoke of the trauma that children who are awaiting adoption go through, but then downplayed the long-term effects of this trauma, suggesting that over-stating the problems of these children puts parents off adopting.  The message was clear: all these children need is a loving family and if they have that then the problems will melt away.

If this is true, then why the increasing number of failed adoptions?  Why the desperate calls from adoptive families for more post-adoption support to help them deal with the difficulties they encounter?  Unfortunately, love does not conquer all.

Jeanette Winterson was herself adopted as a child and, despite her own difficult upbringing, she has spoken passionately to encourage more people to step forward as adopters.  Yet on TV this week she said that she was shocked at how few children are being adopted nowadays.  According to Jeanette Winterson 'only, like, 60 kids' were adopted last year, a statistic which she found 'unbelievable'.

Well, yes, it unbelievable, and it is also completely untrue.  The much-mentioned figure of 60 children adopted relates only to the number of babies under one who were adopted and doesn't include the hundreds of older children who were adopted.

An easy mistake to make - anyone could have slipped up like that, you might think.  But there was no expert to correct her, and the interviewer did nothing to correct the misinformation.

So, BBC, have your celebrities if you like, and let them do the important work of raising the profile of this vital issue, but at the same time, you also need to include the expert views of those who actually work in the field - from social services, from Action for Children,  from AdoptionUK and the many other agencies who really do know what is happening.  Otherwise the debate and public opinion will be skewed by naivety, inaccuracy and misinformation.