Linda Colling: Sick system of health care

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HOW many more are at the end of their tether like Riven Vincent, the mother of a severely disabled six-year-old who hit the headlines after she wrote to David Cameron accusing him of not doing enough for families like hers?

The personal letter the PM sent to Ms Vincent, whose daughter Celyn is blind, quadraplegic and has cerebral palsy and epilespy, promised to look “very closely” at the case to see if he could intervene to help resolve it.

It did nothing to allay the fears of thousands more like this mother who in desperation posted on the Mumsnet website that she had asked social services to take Celyn into care.

“They have refused extra respite. I can’t cope,” she wrote.

While Mr Cameron sought to quell the row and the embarrassment to the Government, his insistence that Ms Vincent’s case had nothing to do with the austerity drive held a hollow ring.

The cutbacks so many fear will mean their care or allowances reduced or fees increased. It’s all just the start of more to come.

And it’s bad enough already for carers at both ends of the spectrum – families like Ms Vincent’s “crumbling” under the strain of looking after the young and those who have an elderly loved one.

So often those, like a friend who has been plunged into coping with the trauma of her mother sectioned with dementia, find when they are least able to cope, they have a frustrating fight on their hands for the help they had counted on but isn’t there.

And if an intelligent and eloquent woman like her can get nowhere, what hope is there for others less able to fight their corner or present their case?

She was disgusted and showed me the letter she had received from her Wearside GP’s surgery after she had asked for counselling to sort out the practicalities of a care package in the event of her mother returning home. She explained she didn’t need emotional counselling.

She received an unsigned photocopy which her GP I doubt would have seen. And to add insult to injury it bore the Investor in People logo.

It read: “Your doctor has referred you for counselling and in this regard we are sorry to inform you we currently have no available spaces.

“We will however keep your details close to hand and will contact you as soon as we are able to offer you an appointment.

“This could be anything from just a few weeks up to three months. We regret the delay and would like to offer our sincere thanks for your patience.

“If you decide you no longer wish to be seen, please leave a message for the counselling services via reception immediately, so that our records can be adjusted. Warm regards, Counselling services.”

There was more to come when she went to an advice agency over benefit entitlement and needed an adviser to fill in a form because she is unable to following an injury. The man only half filled in the form and when she queried this he told her without any shame: “They’ll just send it back.”

What a sick system of health professionals. And it’s all set to get sicker.