This is a story about a Blackberry. When I joined my current Community Mental Health team I was given a Blackberry. I don’t like Blackberrys, finding them too small and fiddly. Nonetheless I took it. On trying to open it I found that it was password protected. Irritating but not a huge problem. I asked my manager if she had the password. Apparently not since the previous owner has now left the Trust. perhaps I.T. would have the password .”I’ll ring them” I said. “”No. You have to fill in a form.” This I duly did. Three weeks later I’m still waiting. I then discovered that I can have any phone. So I looked at the menu and chose an i-phone.Partly because I’m used to them and because they work well for me. I have some hearing loss and some loss of eyesight. I filled in the form and reached the final box which asked for a cost code. Having no idea what this was I asked my manager. “Oh.I don’t authorise that. You have to ask A .at W. base. I dutifully rang A. to be told that she was on duty today and couldn’t take phone calls etc. But if I emailed the form she would look at it tomorrow. This I did. The reply came back that I couldn’t have an i-phone because I hadn’t told my current manager that I had sight problems .If i wanted an i-phone on these grounds I must have an Occupational Health assessment. Was this alright? “Of course” I replied. I have yet to hear from Occupational Health. Meanwhile I am using my own phone to make calls. It’s just quicker.
I’m not complaining about phones per se.I don’t really mind what phone I get. What bothers me is the way in which it becomes increasingly difficult to get even the smallest thing done quickly. This story can be replicated in dozens of organisations, I don’t doubt. But what I find so difficult is that after a time this attitude becomes too much. One simply gives up trying to change anything. Yet if the Trust had simply said “Yes.That’s fine. You may have an i-phone.” I would have felt wanted. The organisation would have given me a sense of being appreciated. I am expected to go and work with patients who are vulnerable, damaged, difficult, demanding and more. I bring 30 years of knowledge and experience to my daily work .Yet my reasons for wanting a particular mobile phone are not taken at face value.I am treated like Oliver Twist who had the temerity to ask for More. This is my central point. There is a fear of Need. It is not wise to be needy in the current NHS. Certainly not if one is a staff member.(Nor a patient.) Need threatens to overwhelm the system. One sees pictures of emaciated babies sucking hopelessly at an empty breast .The despair of both mother and baby is obvious.The causes of this picture are often so complex that one needs is a Marvin with “a brain the size of a planet” to unravel them. Global warming is doubtless part of the problem. My right to drive a car has consequences for a mother in Africa .Politics, International, National and local play a part. As does Power. The interactions between all these variables would tax even Marvin. These are of no direct interest to a mother who wants to have enough milk to feed her baby. But their impact is deadly.
I was at a conference recently where the question was asked “If the NHS was a patient, what would be the diagnosis?” Answers ranged from Depressed to Dead! The most telling one was “It would be a person who has suffered years of systematic abuse.” I have worked with women who have been systematically abused over years. Their ability to care for their children is frequently compromised. Each new baby stands for another chance. Yet this same child represents another demand on a mother who is already overwhelmed by her own neediness.So the child becomes hated because it is experienced as yet another demand. Small wonder that we have all the sad tales of Baby P. and others. My request for an i-phone feels like this.I am asking an already overwhelmed service for yet another resource. It is obliged to respond in some way because it has been told it must. But it will not make life easy for me.The longer it puts off my request, the longer it can survive. Eventually I’ll either die or give up. In any event the service has an outcome. Albeit one reminiscent of my third world mother who is trying to do a simple job. Nourish her child. But somehow she is a victim of forces way beyond her. All she knows is that it is unlikely to end well.
The link is, once more, to Van Morrison http://youtu.be/R7Ls6KyP2-8