I have found myself caught in a situation between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Just before Christmas (of all times), I had to rush the person I am carer for to A&E as he had a large cyst busrt on his back, worse still, he managed to successfully hide the fact from me for a few days in which time it became badly infected. They performed a minor operation that evening, making an incision approximately 4 cm in length and 2cm deep in order to clean the infection and necrotic tissue, then proceeded to pack the wound and cap it with gauze and an island dressing.
I was instructed to find out what NHS Walk-In centres were open Christmas and Boxing Day as the wound would have to be checked, repacked and redressed each day. I took it on myself to visit as many Walk-In centres as I could the following day on my own and enquire as to their availability, and informed them what the wound was, it’s size and the procedure required.
All the regular Walk-In centres told me that they do not have the necessarty materials to re-pack and irrigate these wounds, and I would need a Walk-In centre attached to an A&E unit. These units told me they could not perform it and we’d need to attend an actual A&E unit each day; which is exactly what we did the following day and were sat waiting for over 4 hours. He is disabled andf in great pain controlled by morphine and has a heart condition and by the time we were seen he was in agony and becoming quite ill.
The nurse we saw that day was extremely good and very sympathetic. He informed me that I shouldn’t have been advised to go to a Walk-In centre, but to go to his surgery and the nurse there should take care of it. The nurse saw the condition the gentleman was in and agreed with me that sitting and waiting, whether in A&E (dressing changes are low priority and the wait can be unbelievable), a Walk-In centre, or his surgery - every day - was not acceptable or advised. As I’m skilled with most aspects of first aid and operation recovery, he took me through the procedure required to perform the dressing change, irrigation and packing and as he was happy that I was comfortable doing it myself and I knew what was required, he gave me a small supply of the materials.
He instructed me to contact his GP, show them what he had given me and explain what had happened, and he should be able to sort me out a prescription to replace the materials. As it was over Christmas he did say in confidence that if I required a top-up he could give me some more if I returned and asked for him (I had to take him up on this request but I also had it reiterated that the GP needed to get the prescription sorted out for me for the future).
This is where I suddenly hit a brick wall.
The materials I needed were:
- Island Dressings (basically a huge plaster)
- Packs of Gauze
- Sterile irrigation solution
- Alginate Rope
- Dressing Pack - containing sterile gloves, dish, medical waste disposal bag, etc.
- Single-Use Sterile Forceps
The GP managed to get everything except the forceps and the dressing pack as he could locate neither on his system. The codes on the packaging turned up nothing, and I later discovered these are the codes that the hospitals use to re-order; the GPs do not have access to the same re-ordering system, and the hospital has no idea what the codes are that the GPs need.
As a result the chemist managed to supply me with everything except the Sterile Water (these are in individual sachets so the contents do not become contaminated. These have now been on back order for nearly three weeks with no signs of them coming from the supplier. Also unavalable were the forceps (which I require to help get the packing material into the wound, and the dressing packs. I even called NHS Direct for advice and they sent round a community nurse who could do nothing, and the promise of a District Nurse the following day (tnhat never appeared).
In my frustration and needing the materials I resorted to an online supplier of medical supplies and managed to get the packs, the water and the forceps I need, but they are supplied only in bulk and they obviously cost, which is approximately £40 per month.
I am only in receipt of unemployment benefit and carers allowance, and this monthly cost is going to put extra strain on my already stretched financial situation. However I have a duty to ensure that the wound is treated as best I can and everything is sterile to ensure there is no reinfection, or worse, Sepsis. But this is the only way I can get what I need; the GP is unable to help me, the A&E department that treated him are limited in what they can supply and do, the A&E departments of other hospitals won’t even help unless I bring him in so they can assess him (he’s refused to go and I can’t put him through that much discomfort and pain), the nurse can’t help and neither can my chemist - so what other choice do I have?
And now I’ve basically been told by NHS Direct that there’s nothing they can do to help me, I’ll just have to bear the costs myself. This simply cannot be right, surely there must be some way I can get compensation for this necessary and out-of pocket expense!