Can we call ourselves civilised any more?

Is the Social Contract breaking down?

I’m watching with sadness as my 86 year old mother, an exemplary member of society all her life, suddenly discovers that, although she worked right up until two years ago, always paid her taxes & National Insurance, battled to teach her children right from wrong, has never knowingly broken any law and generally been a shining beacon to all those who have been lucky enough to know her, the NHS doesn’t actually give a damn about her. Now she’s old, she’s disposable. Taking up resources that more economically-active citizens might need…

The story so far, as told elsewhere:

“She fell some time ago, for no known reason, & felt ghastly afterwards, but her GP refused to give her a face-to-face appointment, basically saying that that’s to be expected when you’re 86, just take some paracetamol & you’ll be fine in a week or two. A few days later she tried again to get an appointment, as she was still suffering from considerable discomfort under the ribs, and didn’t feel right at all. But again, all she could get was a “telephone consultation” & the doc said that she should just take more paracetamol; even if she’d broken a couple of ribs, the hospital wouldn’t be able to do anything for her & it could take 6 weeks or so before she felt better.

Eventually, on the insistence of my younger brother, who works for Social Services, they grudgingly gave her an appointment with a trainee GP, who luckily turned out to be very good, keen & painstaking. Turns out she’d had a heart attack, probably when she fell. Any fool could SEE that she really wasn’t at all well, that whatever ailed her was far more than a little bit of bruising, but evidently her GP doesn’t do actually SEEING people any more.

Yesterday she collapsed at the surgery after being given some kind of spray treatment to lower her blood pressure. The trainee GP called an ambulance & she was carted off to hospital; he’d written a note asking for her to seen by the cardiac department & various tests to be done. She & my step-father spent 7 hours in a cubicle in A&E, with nothing to do & not even a cup of water, where they eventually repeated the ECG the surgery did last week, then sent her home saying they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Now the trainee GP can’t request further investigations until he gets the results of the ECG they did yesterday, because he doesn’t know why they ignored his requests & just repeated the ECG. In the meantime, Mum’s condition is dangerously volatile, because they don’t know what they should be treating her for.

Since when have doctors been too busy to see an 86 y.o. who may have broken some ribs? Since when is paracetamol the best the NHS can offer? I can understand that the A&E department may just have been run off their feet & too busy to read the notes that came in with a patient that was at least still breathing, but why do we have to wait for the results to come back – in the post, in December – before anything further can be done?

When I was working in sheltered housing, from time to time I encountered the attitude that anyone over 60 should just shuffle off quietly & not make any fuss on the way out. One minute it’s “the ambulance is on its way” but as soon as you give the date of birth it becomes, “Oh. District Nurse will come & see them in a week or so…” Seems to me that this is becoming more prevalent. But I can’t understand why anyone thinks it’s OK to leave an otherwise-fit & very capable old lady, who has hardly ever bothered them, in pain & distress, with just an impatient phone call & orders to take more paracetamol…”

There are plenty more instances I can add. Here’s a comment from a disabled member of a forum I belong to, referring to an incident this week:

“Having spent 8hrs on a trolley in a corridor I conclude it is the way the disabled are treated too!” And another friend has multiple serious health challenges, including psoriasis, a badly-damaged liver and legs that are constantly swollen, painful & actually bleeding half the time; getting dressed is acutely painful, never mind walking, but apparently she is perfectly capable of holding down a full time job, so no longer qualifies for most of the paltry benefits she used to scrape by on. And we’ve all read of the soldiers who have sacrificed limbs and/or their mental health, for Queen & Country, being denied housing & benefits. Dulce et decorum est

Not to mention the time my boys came across an elderly gentleman lying in our road one icy night. One of them is a trained first-aider; it took him seconds to realise that the old boy was seriously hurt (broken arm, smashed fingers, broken nose, collar- & cheek-bones) after slipping on thick ice and that his bare skin was stuck to a pile of his own frozen blood. They called for an emergency ambulance, explained the situation clearly, and one ran to the house for blankets to try to warm him up. We are about 200 yards from the ambulance station. It took 50 minutes to arrive. And no, it eventually transpired there wasn’t anything more urgent going on; the dispatcher had just concluded, old person fallen over, no rush. He didn’t linger long afterwards.

Or the person in our road who has an autistic son, who has just found out that there’s no “funding” at all for respite this winter, not even a couple of hours so she can go Christmas shopping for the rest of her kids, as she works full-time in term time to keep the roof over their heads & food in their mouths. I could go on and on… sometimes I can help fill some of the gaps that were once filled by the agencies paid for by our contributions, which is only fair as I don’t currently earn enough to pay tax, though I do voluntarily (and happily) pay NI. But the holes in the safety-net are getting bigger & wider all the time and I, and people like me, can’t keep filling them all. Can’t even begin to see them all, in fact.

So, where are all our taxes & contributions going? They are draining upwards, keeping that interest flowing; after all, if the rich don’t continue to get richer, whatever would there be for the rest of us to aspire to? Seems to most of us down here that the “trickle-down” effect is more of a flood upwards; that our hard-earned cash is being grasped & flung into a black hole of invisible debt that is none of our making, and that our friends, neighbours & loved ones are now slowly, but surely, being sacrificed to keep the juggernauts of industry rolling over our once green & pleasant land. And we are probably next in line.

I’ve always believed, as my mother told me, that the mark of a civilised society is how it cares for its weaker members, those who for whatever reason are unable to care for themselves, temporarily or permanently. I am rapidly concluding that we can no longer call ourselves civilised.

2 thoughts on “Can we call ourselves civilised any more?

  1. Nicola December 12, 2012 / 5:12 pm

    this made me cry, for your Mum, for the old man, for Juliet.. for all of us who are growing older, and more scared of doing so, by the day! xxxx

  2. sandra February 12, 2013 / 7:57 am

    What an excellant post, I too have just found out that my 91 yr old mum is ‘surplus to requirement’

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