I have just been to see my godmother, aged 101, who now lives in a very good care home. She is bedridden, has a memory span of about 10 seconds and although a newspaper is delivered to her each day, she has not meaningfully read it for at least three years. She is also totally uninterested in watching the television. She has always worn glasses and still has the pair that she was using perfectly happily when she did read the paper and when she entered the home about nine months ago – by which time she had lost all interest in either the paper or the TV.
This evening I noticed a new glasses case sitting on the side table and asked who it belonged to. ‘Oh, those are your godmother’s new glasses’ I was told.
‘What do you mean, new glasses? What is wrong with the ones that she has got?’
‘Well, nothing, but the optician came round as usual and gave all the residents an eye test and ordered them all new glasses.’
‘What on earth for? Given that she is totally uninterested in reading anything, what on earth is the point of either giving her either an eye test or new glasses?’
‘Well, I am afraid, that is what they do….’
To be fair, the staff in the home thought it was a ridiculous as I did – but – that is what is set out in the regulations. Far be it from me to suggest that if someone in a home needs new glasses to be able to read the paper or see the TV properly, they should not have them – they absolutely should. But should it not be on a basis on need rather than a wholesale issue of new, and in my godmother’s case, since her old glasses were trifocals, rather expensive glasses, whether they are needed or not?
Further discussion also revealed that ‘regulations state’ that each patient/resident’s prescription is unique to themselves so that, even if they are only being prescribed a generic drug such as Aspirin, their tablets cannot be used for anyone else who is also prescribed Aspirin. Even if they have not used their allotted amount, which often they do not, their Aspirin tablets have to be thrown out rather than being reallocated to another patient who also needs Aspirin. Could there not be a central store of the drugs needed by the residents from which each individual’s drugs were taken as needed? Would that not be less wasteful?
It is, of course, easy to criticise and far harder to come up with a scheme which safeguards patients’ wellbeing but does not create too much waste. But in both these cases I feel that a better fist could have been made of the job.