Network Rail disrespects Welsh passengers

by The Curious Scribbler

The Scribbler made a rare excursion to London this weekend and travelled home on Sunday evening, from Euston to Abersytwyth.

At Birmingham New Street I spent 40 minutes, bought a cup of tea and fell into brief conversation with another passenger in the concourse.  She was a fashionably tweedy woman with a medium sized suitcase, accompanied by two well behaved gentle-eyed dogs and a child who carried a white pet rat in a red topped plastic travelling box. I don’t know where they had travelled from but it had already involved other trains.  She remarked that fellow travellers had been nice to them, and indeed that more people spoke to them than she would have expected were she alone. Like me she was travelling westward. For lack of a real name I shall call her ‘Mrs Weasley’.

The Arriva 18-24 service to Aberystwyth was on time and expected on Platform 5A.  Dog’s claws are at risk on escalators and some ten minutes early we shared a ride in the lift to platform level.  There was already a dense crowd assembled for the train and she and I took up separate waiting points where we could find a space in the crowd.  I favoured the front row near where the front of the train might be expected.  With her animals, she took up a position further down the platform and farther from the edge.

The tannoy rang out, confirming that the next train to arrive at Platform 5A would be the Arriva Wales service.  But it was not.  Instead, in rolled a London Midland special train packed to capacity with returning football fans. It did not even pull forward to the unoccupied platform 5B.  Instead it stopped exactly at Platform 5A where we stood waiting already crowded five deep.  The tannoy spoke again, to tell us that this London Midland train was in special service and no one was to get aboard it. Instead its passengers disembarked into our midst and jostled their way towards the escalators.

The train was a long one and every seat was taken with many more standing.  Probably as many as a thousand men and boys eased their way in several strands through our crowd, one strand moving along the platform edge were constantly impeded by further disembarkers, other strands formed a conga and pushed their way single file through the body of our crowd.  Toes collided with our feet and our suitcases, rucksacks swung in our faces.  There was no spare capacity on the platform, and every fan from the back carriages had to push through the entire throng of Arriva passengers to reach the exit. It must have been horrible for the dogs, though they were too mannerly to make a sound.

After some minutes of this onslaught the flow of departing passengers slowed, and soon, we imagined, the special train would depart and make way for ours.  The time was just after 18-24.  The tannoy spoke again.  The 18-24 would depart from platform 2A.  No doubt it was already there, but Network Rail had, till now, omitted to inform us of the fact.

So I and the Wales-bound crowd turned en masse and struggled hastily to join the flow of ambling supporters who had been pushing through our midst.  We queued for the escalator or fought our way up the stairs.  We ran along the concourse and descended to platform 2.  I squeezed onto the first carriage and secured a remaining reserved seat.  And as I was about to sit I saw ‘Mrs Weasley’ and the child, and the dogs running to press the ‘Open’ button on the then-closing door of our carriage.  Perhaps she should have stuck her foot in the closing gap.  As it was, the door continued to close and the train dispatcher stood by with a walkie-talkie, unmoved by Mrs Weasley’s furious protests.  The train started on its way.  Arriva Wales has a schedule to keep, and they will doubtless say it was not their fault that Network Rail (who run the station) had wilfully separated the Wales-bound passengers from their train.

As for the other travellers with slower mobility, – the parents with buggies, the old lady with swollen legs and a small terrier peeping out of a large handbag, the man in a wheelchair, all of whom I noticed on Platform 5A.  Well, I guess we left them behind too.  They’d be waiting another two hours for a train to Wales.

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Hospital is no place for the old

I listened to Anne Clwyd MP on the radio the other day, describing the conditions of disinterest and neglect ( like a battery hen)  which marked her husband’s death in hospital in Cardiff.  In the wake of the Mid Staffordshire inquiry, she has been appointed to a government committee to advise on how NHS hospitals should handle complaints.

She has been inundated with correspondence from people from all over the UK whose relatives received little care or compassion on NHS wards. But perhaps most shocking is that while individuals regularly make the same observations, it is widely recognised  among professionals that hospital is no place for the old.

I was responsible for managing my nonagerarian mother’s care and experience in a nursing home in the last five years of her life. About 3 years ago she became severely dehydrated as the result of prolonged diarrhoea.  In need of rehydration the GP assigned her to hospital.

I say assigned because, although the distance was less than a mile it took four hours for her to be admitted.  Those four hours were spent in an ambulance on the tarmac outside A&E, parked alongside three other ambulances containing elderly non-urgent patients.  It was a a freezing cold, brilliantly sunny, January day.  Only two ambulances remained in service, I was told, to deal with emergencies in the entire county!

This part of the care was, however, very good to my mother.  While an IV saline drip cannot (for reasons of arcane regulation)  be provided in a nursing home, she was promptly attached to one in the ambulance.  The heating in the van was excellent, and for nearly four hours she lay quietly rehydrating, attended by the paramedic, the driver, a young care assistant from the care home and myself.  If only, after the four hours, she could have been taken back to her nursing home!

She was at last processed in A&E and eventually admitted to a ward within the target waiting time (not including the ambulance-blocking hours, which do not count towards the target).  It was there that the inadequacies of care became seriously apparent.  Placed in a side ward she was left alone for long periods and not provided with a call bell.  Anti nausea medicine prescribed by the doctor took more than seven hours to appear from the pharmacy.  Simple comforts like tea appeared seldom, ( certainly not on request) while meals were served during “protected mealtimes” when witnessing relatives were banished from the ward. Nursing staff were sullen and uncommunicative.

‘Is she eating anything?’ I asked at the nursing station on my daily visits.

‘Oh we’re very keen on food.’ was the evasive reply.

But evidence there was none.  Full plates were cleared away untouched.  Food and fluid  intake charts were not filled in.  Although quite able to stand my mother was manhandled with a hoist and wheelchair to visit her en suite loo.  No one sought to find out what her physical abilities were. In her own words, she felt she was handled like a piece of meat. Over a week she became more and more deeply miserable.On the sixth day, without explanation, or recording in the notes, she was put onto a glucose drip.  Perhaps they finally noticed she wasn’t eating anything?

Laundry is a reponsibility of the visiting relatives, and on each day I would be provided with a bag of dirties to take home.  Because the reason for her bowel problem remained undiagnosed she was receiving ” barrier nursing”.  How then did the bags I took home prove to contain other patients’ labelled clothing?  When I called to point this out the staff nurse told me that that the two owners of the nightdresses had died, and that I should throw these items away.  A little research proved this to untrue.  One of the ladies was back at my mother’s nursing home, and I eventually returned her freshly laundered nightdress!  I failed to trace the other. But it summed up the attitude on that ward.  Old women with a nursing home tag on their admission bracelet were not seen as individuals.  They were a generic nuisance.

Eventually I wrote a letter to the consultant ( whom I never saw) requesting that she be discharged, whether they knew what was wrong with her or not. I refused permission for invasive tests, which she would have experienced as nothing short of an assault.

In the course of that week I realised then that hospital is just too harsh an environment for a frail nonagenarian.  And that the quality of care is lowest for this category of patient. In her subsequent management I always pointed out to GPs responsible for her care that hospital was not an appropriate destination for the very old.  No one ever disagreed, or suggested that the benefits could outweigh the de-merits of hospital admission.





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The Trials of Spam

by The Curious Scribbler

As a blogger it is really exciting to get a reply or  email from a real reader adding to a story, like Tone’s account of how the Welsh Nationalist students  tried to sever the bronze head of the first Vice Chancellor of the University because he was an English king ( albeit briefly)  Edward VIII.  Or Kate’s link to Robert Parnall  of Llanstephan,  one of her ancestors in Carmarthenshire. Or indeed nice comments from people with nothing to sell.

But there is a blight upon bloggers which makes one foam at the mouth.  The parasites, trying to get publicity for their dodgy merchandising sites, too idle or illiterate even to write a relevant sentence as a vehicle to which to attach the website address of their wares.

Some send in a generic comment which appears badly written but superficially flattering:

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These were both in response to the post ‘What is a Lhasa Apso?’ A bit odd, but believable, until you realise the correspondent is actually peddling a link selling American football jerseys!

A regular offender wants you to buy cheap Ugg boots in the USA and Argentina:

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Time and again I consign this author to trash.

Or having read about the Aberystwyth war memorial another ‘reader’ replies

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Possibly the fake branded sunglasses are so black the author can neither read nor write!

And in the complete gibberish category comes this:

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Both of which comments would give links to Louis Vuitton Bags  and Emporio Armani Watch Mall.

Less easy to spot was Phillip, who wrote

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Who wouldn’t experience a momentary warm glow?  But to approve this comment would furnish my readers with nine links to American social networking, job seeking, brand buying, property selling and joke purveying sites.  Nine of them in all.  Phillip, I will survive without your fake praise!

Why do they keep on sending this nonsense, when it never reaches the readership?  Surely they understand that the author of a blog can approve, or reject any comment?  What the author cannot do is to expurgate their comment and remove the marketing content.  But I can clip out their comments and republish them in my own blog, for the enjoyment of those who would wish to remind themselves how many fools there are in the digital world. And I have found in the dross a valuable expression  –  a single phrase from the multitude which describes exactly what I am doing – “keeping pestilence removed from my material.”


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