Everyone knows Mikaere is medically fragile. I’ve talked before about how large our medical team is and how we have an appointment of some kind every day of the week. Our life is a series of appointments and therapy and special needs groups. We go to all these things because it helps Mikaere, it keeps him safe, minimises risks, teaches him skills and relaxes him and puts all sorts of services in place for when things go belly up and he needs them. It’s a full time job, organising and ferrying him about, being present, understanding the goals and raising concerns and following up.
Of all these services, our paediatrician is the most utalised. He’s the person who knows Kai the best, who is our first port of call. He orders our meds and the bloods and all the checks. He’s our go-to person when anything is wrong, if the meds are out or there are more seizures or we need something. He orders all the referrals, the X-rays to check for hip formation and scoliosis. The orthotic referral for the suit, the physio referrals, the gastro surgery referrals. He pulls checks on all the difference services, speech and language, physio, OT, nutrition. He’s the person we work with, the person we make a plan with and who helps us works the system to make it happen.
We’re lucky that our paediatrician is covered on the NHS, as are most of the services Mikaere uses. For those not in the UK, the NHS stands for the National Health Service. It means that the basics of our healthcare system are free at the point of care. Meaning, we’re lucky that for the bulk of Mikaere’s care, it’s covered by the tax we pay.
Here’s the thing though. The NHS is chronically underfunded. It may not look like it from the outside, but it is.
Mikaere’s paediatrician was a locum, which means he was temporary while they found a permanent person to take that role. Which is fine, we knew this and accepted it. However, a month or two before end of the financial year the paediatric locums were let go as a cost saving measure. And – get this – there was a gap in care. There was a gap where there was NO ONE to pick up the case load, where Mikaere DID NOT have a paediatrician – our first port of call, someone to prescribe his many meds or chase anything (like that gastro we’re waiting for). We didn’t know where to go for all the things Mikaere needed.
My small, medically fragile and vulnerable son did not have a paediatrician because the hospital trust was told it needed to save some money.
As you can imagine, I raised an absolute stink about it. I emailed the Medical Director, Andrew Rhodes. I also emailed the Head of Child Services, James Gavin. I made an official complaint to the hospital, wherein they couldn’t tell me why officially why there was a gap in care. I emailed my MP, Justine Greening. I also emailed Jeremy Hunt (https://www.jeremyhunt.org/contact – and if you can, I’d ask that you email him too, and tell him chronically underfunding the NHS is having a crippling affect on the most vulnerable of our population). I’ve complained to CQC and I’m in the process of a complaint with our local ombudsman.
And nothing happened, nothing changed. I got a few platitudes and apologies but not much more. And that’s because the problem is bigger than the trust that runs our local hospital and provides basic care for Kai.
Underfunding at the NHS is happening and it’s affecting my family in real and tangible ways – for the worst.
And I know. I know we’re lucky to live in a country that covers care for us, and we’re grateful for that. Except that we also live in a system where we couldn’t afford care otherwise. We couldn’t afford to pay for private care. I had to give up my (wonderfully well paid) job to care for Mikaere, and point blank, if it came to it, we couldn’t afford care for Mikaere outside the NHS. Just to be really clear, we are not talking about luxury care for Mikaere. We’re talking the basics of what he needs to be safe and to live.
We rely on the NHS for Kai’s care, and it has a direct affect on his quality of life.
NHS underfunding is happening and it terrifies me.