Problems at the Whittington

Surgery all morning meeting residents who wanted to raise issues – with a pause for a live radio interview right in the middle of it. Our Shadow Home Secretary Mark Oaten was otherwise engaged – so I had to just take it there and then. ASBOs – need I say more. I will. There has been something like an 86% increase this year – and still it doesn’t (according to the radio presenter) stop or deter anti-social behaviour. Shock! Horror! Of course it doesn’t. Banning people from doing anything rarely works in any real or sustained way. Tougher would be to really tackle those youngsters as with Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (pioneered in Liberal Democrat run Islington with the Met) where parents, the young person, teachers, police, local authority, social workers, or whoever is necessary sit down and work out an agreed program – and come back to it – week after week after week. Sustained interest and effective mentoring works – but it is truly tough liberalism.

Then the presenter meanders into the territory of whether policy should support marriage and the nuclear family (probably following on from the Tory leadership debate last night). I say that’s a difficult one! The world has changed – and I don’t know that you can change it back even if the ‘wholeness’ of a two-parent family unit were proven to be ideal. So I opt for the important thing – which is loving and caring for your children whatever the surrounding construct.

Afterwards surgery I make a home visit to an elederly lady who wants to talk to me about people not listening to old people and trying to get rid of them. Her son is there when I arrive – and I sit down and have about an hour’s chat with her. She highlights the recent treatment of herself at the Whittington – and cites the dismissive way in which old people can be treated and worse. I totally agree. I have some terrible tales from the Whittington – and I have been there and met with the Chair and the issues I raise have been batted away on the whole by generally suggesting that the complainant is a difficult person etc.

I will regale you with one tale from my own experience to exemplify what my constituent and I are on about. My daughter was admitted to the Whittington overnight a while back. From A & E she was put in the womens’ geriatric ward as the only place with space. She told me this tale. During the night an old lady in a bed not far away was calling for the nurse for quite a while. The nurse kept walking past and not responding to the woman. Eventually, my daughter got up and went over to the woman to see what was wrong. She wanted to go to the toilet. My daughter went and found a nurse and told her that the old lady in the bed needed to go to the loo. The nurse basically said that the woman was a nuisance, always wanting something and she would just have to wait. The old woman wet herself in the end.

It is a terrible tale – but I have other similar ones. When I have presented them to the Whittington – as I say – they are batted away one way or the other. We are currently waiting for an apology for the way another of my constituents was treated and have been told one will be forthcoming. We will see on that one. I appreciate that nurses do a great job under incredible strain and stress. Nursing care – not the clinical medical side – but the caring, motherly side of nursing – is what is needed as well as the clinical and medical excellence. How to make time for nurses to give that care alongside the tablets is where I want to head. It can only be (or I hope that the reason is) that nurses have no time for any real degree of that side of nursing anymore. And my constituent old lady was voicing just that need, particularly from an older person’s perspective of being treated so poorly. I will continue to work on this issue.

Then back to my constituency office to meet with a foster care expert who is concerned over the gap in the care that is given to those leaving foster care. Government is meant to be funding people to do this job. But the system isn’t working as it should – another one to pursue.

Then last job of the day is my quarterly meeting with the Labour Leader of Haringey Council, Charles Adje. We run through an agenda of local issues and council business and whilst there are no major issues on the table, it is a useful regular meeting – as we are all working for Haringey’s benefit – whatever our political persuasion and whatever our different roles.