How many phone calls does it take to organise a COVID-19 test for a ninety+ year old who needs an emergency admission to a care home?
Linda’s been at it all day today ... and she is at 14 and counting. At this point she has a vague promise of a test, sometime. Today? Tomorrow? Next week? Nobody knows.
[The good news: while I was typing this a tester turned up and took the swabs; achievement unlocked.]
But here is the thing, sorting out this sort of stuff is what Linda does for living, she knows what to say to whom, when to push, and, ultimately, when not to take no for an answer.
Following her progress over the course of the last eight hours it became clear to me that had it been me trying to get this organised I’d have fallen by the wayside well before lunch. And I don’t think the way things went today is atypical. A colleague of Linda’s went through a similar situation recently ... 13 calls were needed — I can’t see our parents ever managing.
The free social care for the elderly is great on the glossy paper of political manifestos but the reality of it fails expectations. The councils don’t have enough money to implement it properly, and so not only what is on offer is rather meagre, but the system actively discourages uptake: the automated phone menus are endless, the forms are incomprehensible, the processes are protracted ad absurdum.
Call me cynical, but I don’t believe that this is just a bureaucratic inefficiency. We have been through this enough times in the last year and a half to start picking up the patterns, and the message is clear: you are a nuisance, be nice and go away. And I bet many do.