Monday, 8 November 2010

Budget cuts - should we protect bonuses, or the vulnerable?

Just last week a 90 year old lady fell in her kitchen in the morning - gashing her head in the process. She was found by her home carer behind her kitchen door. The home carer immediately phoned for an ambulance and then phoned the lady's daughter, who leapt into her car and drove to reach her mother (approx 20 minutes).

Before the home carer arrived, the lady had come to, and pressed the community alarm buzzer she carried round her neck. They had called back, and, receiving no answer,  immediately contacted the nearest contact for that client. She also leapt in to a car and drove to the house. By the time she arrived, the paramedics were in place, applying emergency treatment and preparing her to be transported to the nearest A&E. She also contacted the lady's daughter - who was on her way.

She was safely taken down stairs (her house was on the first floor), into an ambulance and to hospital. Admitted to A&E within an hour or so of her first discovery, she had stitches inserted in the head wound, and a series of tests were started to ascertain if there were other medical reasons behind the fall. She was admitted to hospital later that day. Within a period of (say) 3 hours that elderly lady had received 4 interventions from  public services - from the Home Carer, and the Community Alarm service to the Paramedics and the Doctors, Nurses and other professionals in the hospital.

Anyone care to estimate how much that kind of intervention would have cost, if it had to be paid for by the individual? Want to suggest that we should hand these over to the private sector, Mr Cameron? One thing's for sure, that lady would not have had the resource to pay for it. Or maybe, someone will suggest that we can't afford this level of care? You, Mr Clegg? Which service would you cut? 

But of course, the commentators might say, we shouldn't cut these essential frontline services - it is the backroom paper-shufflers who we can't afford to sustain. Really? Perhaps the person who trained the home carer, so she knew what to do in an emergency? Or maybe the office staff who keep the contact details up to date in the Community Alarms? The telephonists at the 999 centre who know what questions to ask and where to send the ambulance? Or the medical secretaries, technicians, assistants, porters and cleaners who ensure that tests are carried out, results are delivered to the professionals, and that hospital patients are treated comfortably, with respect, and protected from disease when vulnerable?

It is clear to me, that the kind of policies being proposed by Gideon Osborne and his cronies would lead directly to that lady being put at risk. And I, for one, am not prepared to see that happen without a fight. And more than that, I am proud of a civilisation that  decides that elderly ladies (and the rest of us) deserve that level of service. Those that would denigrate that service, and those who provide it,  are not worthy to be called civilised.

This is especially so, as we can quite clearly afford it. Those who have most continue to increase their earnings and widen the gap between them and the low paid. It is way beyond time that they plough some of that back into providing a civilised level of public service. Other sources of money might include the banks - who let us not forget - had their own 'emergency service' from the rest of us not so long ago. Time to start paying that back, I think. The STUC's 'There is a Better Way' campaign gives more detail about the real economics of this country.

This may seem a trifle personal, and it is. The lady in question is the mother of my partner of 35 years. We are both deeply grateful for the service that has so far been available, and deeply fearful for what is likely to be left after Cameron, Clegg and the other Tories have had their way. We have a chance in next year's Scottish Parliament Elections to send a message to these politicians. Let’s take it.

No comments:

Post a Comment