Yesterday I was at the end of the phone when a carer called – furious that the service was not able to deliver what had been expected of it.
Honestly, the rage was mostly deserved. There I was, trying to explain why transport for an appointment had not arrived, why a carer hadn’t been/hadn’t recorded he had been (not sure which – I veer towards the former but care agency swear blind it is the latter) over the long weekend and why I had had to postpone a visit from last week to this week.
And although I have a fairly thick skin, the savagery of the attack took me back a little.
I’m not blameless by any means – I could have popped in at some point last week – but it’s a part of the often unexplained need to prioritise immediately any work related to Mental Health Act being one of two AMHPs (Approved Mental Health Professionals) in the service that can often lead to postponing what plans may have been otherwise made. We’ve had quite a few assessments come in over the last week or so.
One thing I learnt and I think this was on one of these managing complaints courses I’ve been subjected to over the years was that when someone is angry and annoyed with the service, we shouldn’t try to make excuses or divest responsibility to other services or people because that isn’t going to help.
So I apologised – and for what it’s worth, it was an entirely genuine apology. I am truly sorry that this happened. I wish I could put together a fully functioning care package. I wish, when I call the care agency to ask why someone has not been, that I believed them when they told me that person went and just ‘forgot’ to sign in. I really honestly truly do.
I passed on verbally and followed up with a letter with all the relevant complaints departments – the local authority, the primary care trust and the mental health trust.
These though are the moments when you realise the power of the media. As well as being told that my job was so easy that Mrs X’s seven year old child could do it – I was also held personally as an example of how the social work profession is full of over-paid (!) buffoons who have fallen out of college because they couldn’t get through their GCSEs. And weren’t intelligent enough to get onto media studies courses.
Although I was quite good at masking the initial blows and know logically that the anger wasn’t really personally directed as me as an individual but rather the ‘me as a representative of an organisation’ , I was very close to asking my manager to reallocate to a nurse as that is what the carer wanted. As I was told, at least nurses are useful. When my mother is allocated a social worker instead of a nurse, does that mean she’s getting an inferior quality of service. Does that mean her medical needs are being ignored. After all, what do social workers do that a seven year old child couldn’t?
And you know, I have had a good think about it.
I suspect that today, if everything was followed up as planned yesterday, will rest a little easier. Sometimes just being angry at the representative of a service can be enough.
I do hope so but as it is, today, I have another swathe of cancelled ‘routine’ visits in the wake of a sudden call for a Mental Health Act Assessment.
I hate cancelling. I hate cancelling with little notice. I wish we could operate some kind of ‘duty’ system that the other CMHTs have which would mean that I could block off days just for AMHP work – but as long as there are only two of us – it is impossible to put a hold on everything else while waiting for calls that may or may not come in.
The explanations for the cancellations are usually a genuine but fake-sounding ‘emergency that has come up’. I hate saying that as it seems that I am diminishing the needs of the person I had planned to visit but as long as there is an immediate need for a possible assessment for a compulsory admission to hospital – that really does have to trump everything else. It is contractual. I am (rightly) obliged to place Mental Health Act work above everything else.
I don’t explain that part though. There is a time to soak up rage. And a time to explain and defend. They never occur simultaneously, I’ve found.