Category Archives: Rant

Hospital parking* in an emergency

*And by parking I mean ‘not parking’.

It has been a while since I last had an emergency admission into hospital and because it has been a while I completely forgot that such an activity requires intense logistical planning, moral / ethical mazes, financial forecasting and nerves of steel.

1. REAL Emergency flashing blue lights and screeching brakes admissions, accident and emergency for the conscious and walking / wheeling wounded admissions and ‘Shropdoc’ walk in demountable clinic for those who don’t know if they are ill enough to merit access to a bricks and mortar building are all located within 30 metres of each other.

2. There is NO parking in the vicinity – except bizarrely for a staff car park on what looked like it used to be a grass verge, and an overfilled ‘drop-off’ car park for a clinic. So staff get priority for parking over people who may have suffered an accident?

3. So nerves of steel required to pull into a heavily guarded and marked ambulance bay to dash into minor emergencies reception to pick up a wheelchair to bring out to put my daughter in. She can’t walk you see. It is at this point that I realise that my attempt at being an adult has failed completely and I should have phoned my mum and dad and asked one of them to take us to hospital. Oh and before you mention buses or public transport, this is Shropshire, there are no straightforward public transport options from where I am to the hospital. Oh and my daughter can’t walk any way.

4. NO DROPPED KERBS!!!!

5. Logistics 1 Daughter ensconced in reception. Um. Now what. I am amazing in so many ways but actually being in two places at once is still a skill I need to master. Moral maze: I have to stay with my injured, vulnerable 9-year-old daughter, and yet I have to move my car, because I am parked in an ambulance bay that is guarded by all-seeing beings who will swoop in any minute to clamp me and fine me. I ask reception where the best place is for me to park.

“Parking is nothing to do with us”

“You see, My 9-year-old is in reception, which is out of your sight (It is completely out of sight of the desk, bizarrely), and my car is sitting in an ambulance bay. I know I need to move my car but I don’t particularly want to leave my daughter on her own”.

“Well the parking is nothing to do with us. The attendants check all the time though and there is nothing we can do to help you if you get a ticket”.

“Um…..”

So, here is the thing.

a. This is your hospital, parking is a service you provide to your patients. It is inextricably linked with what you do because this is how your customers arrive at your premises. You may have sub-contracted management of the parking, but you are the client and you call the shots.

b. I’m actually more concerned about first, my daughter and second, being in the way of the ambulance.

4. So I dash off and park in the general parking which involves driving around and around until a space becomes available. Then working the parking machine. I don’t have cash but there is a sign saying ‘You can pay by phone, look out for the signs near by’. WHY don’t you just put the phone number on the sign??? ‘You can pay by phone, Call 01743……….’ The sign is actually on the side of the machine. Not the most obvious ‘near by’ sign when you are in an ethically challenged panic state.

5. Fortunately payment is through a company I have an account with, but inexplicably it asks me how many hours I want to pay for, when the machines are a flat fee for 24 hours regardless of how long you stay. So that confuses me and means I have to wing it by asking for 4 hours. Who actually knows how long I will be at the hospital for.

6. I get back to comforting extremely brave and well behaved daughter. and I wonder why a car park company is getting all the money for the car park rather than it being reinvested directly in the hospital.

7. Logistics 2 Did I mention the wheel chair? You know those trolleys in DIY shops which only go backwards? They now make wheel chairs like that too. Have you ever tried to manoeuvre a backwards only wheelchair over a pot-holed hard standing with no dropped kerbs? Whilst a bunch of squaddies and paramedics look on (audience always adds pressure, let alone an audience of people who can probably excel at this challenge in their sleep). Not my finest moment. And that was with it empty. It was worse with my poor, pained daughter in it. She got out at the kerb. WHY not have level access??????? WHY not have simple easy to use wheelchairs like supermarkets do????? Needless to say there are a few more dents in the walls of minor emergencies courtesy of me.

8. Ambulances wait outside the entrance to A and E which is well within the hospital grounds WHY?  Why are they not on their starters blocks right next to the main road? Why do they have to traverse a twisting pedestrian and patient littered road before launching into their sprint to a patient? I can understand them being there dropping people off, but just hanging about waiting? In fact why isn’t the whole major emergencies department right next to the main road? That would probably shave a crucial 90 seconds off travel times.

9. Hungry and thirsty now, after triage assessment (Triage Sister was wonderful, exactly the right balance of compassion, competence and common sense that you want in a minor emergency) we decide on getting a diet coke from the vending machine. I have just the right money. It eats the money and does not give me a drink or give me my money back.

“Excuse me, the vending machine has just taken my money, it won’t let me cancel to have my money back and it won’t let me have a drink either”

“Vending machines are nothing to do with us”

“Would you be able to change this money so I can add an extra 10p to try to get a different drink?”.

“No, if we did that, we would be bankrupt. That machine has been broken for ages”.

“Um…..”

WHY not put a sign on the machine saying it is broken then????????

Subsequently, exactly the same thing happened to another patient in a different part of the hospital with exactly the same response.

Customer service was not the strong point of this day.

P.S. Daughter may have cracked a little tiny bone in her foot, plus lots of soft tissue damage. Nothing major, but she will need to wear a special shoe to support her foot for a few weeks whilst it heals.

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Festivals and food policies

Over the last few weeks I have become increasingly aware that UK festivals are starting to impose restrictions on what refreshments ticket holders are able to bring into the event.

Old news you might think, restrictions on alcohol and glass packaging have been around for some time….but no…these are 100% restrictions on ANY food OR drink (including bottles of water) being taken into the festival arenas, and restrictions on what can be taken into campsites.

Heaven only knows why small scale local “no food or drink can be taken into the festival arena” festivals feel the need to impose such draconian rules – do they think they are Coach “No food/Drink allowed into the concert area” ella or something?

How does this relate to ill health? For starters, refresh your memory of the Equality Act 2010

1. Will the security staff have the relevant skills, knowledge and training to enable them to identify, and make a judgement, on sight of the following:

  • A person suffering from diabetes who needs to carry certain types of food with them?
  • A person suffering dehydration who needs to keep their hydration levels up?
  • Someone who is lactose intolerant and needs to bring in some lactose free milk for their tea / coffee?
  • Someone who is coeliac and needs to bring in gluten free food?
  • Someone who has severe food allergies and needs to keep their food free from allergens such as nuts?
  • Someone with heart disease and who needs to be on a low fat diet?

2. If I am considered disabled, and I am refused entry to a festival arena because of, for example, the gluten free rolls I want to bring in to an arena for the burger I would like to buy, will the company be falling foul of the Equality Act?

Then consider health and safety…

3. I believe those festivals that confiscate water from patrons to have not carried out an effective risk assessment on this policy. The risks from dehydration, dirty hands (not all water is for drinking, it is also used to wash hands after using the appalling toilets) and dirty cuts from falls are greater than….. what? What is the realistic risk from a bottle of water? Well there isn’t a risk, it is cynical marketing ploy. If the company doesn’t let you bring your own refreshments into the arena, they can charge a premium to the vendors there…. I imagine it goes like this…”we’ve got a policy that people aren’t allowed to bring in anything to drink or eat and so you’ll make loads of money, that’s why we charge you more”

Then think about your customers needs – the customers that you are meant to serve…

4. I love festival food – hot fresh chips with plenty of salt and vinegar slathered with tomato sauce, warm doughnuts with creamy hot chocolate and cheese crepes – yum yum yum! But after approximately 2 hours of this type of food I get uncomfortable symptoms of Crohn’s as my body struggled to digest all this fat, cream, sugar and salt.

5. So I look for the ‘healthy’ alternative and I am delighted to find the all the traders selling Jamaican, Indian and Indonesian food, but no…..Hot spicy food, Crohn’s and chemical toilets – No thank you.

6. So I have a jacket potato, which means I won’t starve. But I don’t want to only eat jacket potatoes all weekend.

Why is this type of policy a bad idea?

A. The first thing to realise is that I have money to spend and I have choice. I will choose to visit festivals that meet MY needs and choices. In the context of health I call this my ‘Poorly pound’ (ooh I’ll copyright that one ©). I will prioritise the following:

  • Good quality, clean toilets, and plenty of them
  • A reputation for a variety of food including more healthy choices
  • Not having to explain myself to people who do not have any right to know about my medical history – this is how I will feel at a festival that has these restrictions

B. The second thing to realise is that it is unlikely to impact the bottom line in the way that you think. I want the freedom to bring my bottle of water and my snacks in, and I will purchase additional food and drink as well. By not giving me choice I will not buy your tickets and you are missing out on the poorly pound from me and the healthy pound from my family. You will save money on security staff who have better things to do than to look through people’s bags enforcing a silly policy. Oh, you don’t need my money? Did you sell out already? No we are in a recession and everyone is tightening belts. You do need my money.

C. It causes bad feeling. Your event should be remembered for the fantastic atmosphere, brilliant line up and helpful staff. It should not be remembered for the jobsworth security staff who took away the carton of juice from a toddler, the skips of perfectly good confiscated food greeting visitors at the entrance and every single patron grumbling that the only possible reason this ridiculous policy exists is because it is a cynical attempt by the event marketeers to extract more money from vendors. “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it (Franklin)”

D. It goes against festival spirit – customers have a well developed radar and growing distaste for festivals which are run heavily in favour of marketing and events companies – and with a limited budget they will seek out the more authentic experiences – i.e. not yours. This is linked to reputation above.

Fortunately there are some festivals that have a much more sensible approach, and will therefore benefit from my ‘poorly pound’ such as Latitude “Food for personal consumption is permitted onsite including in the arena”.

Lets look at some excuses:

  1. It is a health and saftey risk – I am the queen of health risk assessment – I live my life making decisions based on risk, whether it be to assume that dish does not contain mushrooms or weighing up the odds of surviving surgery. I write many risk assessments for my work. The risk associated with me not having fluid and food are greater than the risks of me having them on my person.
  2. It is standard practice – No it is not. Latitude, V and Leeds don’t feel the need to have this policy, for example.
  3. Vendors want us to have this policy – No vendors want you to create a good value event that meets the needs of customers.  They want high levels of footfall and generally happy punters. They are happy to pay for premium spaces, but not at the expense of customers who then dig their heels in and refuse to buy from anyone at all.

So what have I missed?