It’s taken me two months to be able to write about this. I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally or mentally strong enough to come back to this or to deal with it properly.
My youngest son Arthur has been unwell on and off since the summer with one thing and another. In August he was hospitalised with bronchialitis which is fairly common in kids his age.
In September he was unwell again. I recognised the symptoms straight away as another bout of bronchialitis. I telephoned the Doctor’s surgery at 8am.
I got through to the receptionist on my 66th time of calling.
All the appointments had gone and I was told to ring back at 12.30. I told them it was for a 15 month old baby who had recently hospitalised, it didn’t matter they said, ring back at half 12.
I rang back at half twelve and was given an appointment for half four. I rang the surgery again at 1pm because I felt Arthur was getting worse and needed to see the Doctor.
I was put through to speak to the GP who told me I had an appointment in two hours time and if I couldn’t wait to ring an Ambulance.
Arthur wasn’t unwell enough to warrant ringing an ambulance in my opinion. I’ve been a mother for 18 years, I’m fairly responsible, I’d say I was qualified to make that judgement call. I felt at that point that it wasn’t a medical instruction but a challenge. I felt like that the Doctor thought I was being pushy and impatient.
My husband and I got to the GP for our appointment at half four and Arthur was walking around the waiting room chatting and jabbering. The doctor came out and called his name then disappeared. He hadn’t told us what room to go to so I had to ask a member of staff if they’d seen where he’d gone.
When I walked into the examination room I said to the Doctor “it might have been useful if you had told us what room to come to”. It went downhill from there. I had the audacity to challenge the Doctor and he didn’t like it. The Doctor replied “well what if I told you to call an ambulance because I was concerned about this child, what do you say to that”. I said “you had no idea what condition my son was in because you didn’t ask me any questions about his health and you refused to examine him when I asked you to and in my opinion he didn’t need an ambulance he needed to see you so why don’t you examine now instead of point scoring and that’s why we’ve brought him here”
The Doctor then refused to examine Arthur without a chaperone and called the Practice Manager into the consulting room.
My husband told the Doctor he also did not feel Arthur’s condition warranted calling am ambulance and the Doctor then asked him “are you a doctor?”. The GP then decided Arthur did need an ambulance and told my husband that if I had left or any longer Arthur’s condition would have been much more serious.
Lets examine that. I’m there with my husband who has equal parental responsibility but the Doctor tells my husband that I have jeaopardised my son’s health by delaying seeking medical treatment. Despite the fact that I was on the telephone three times that same day practically begging to get him seen.
The Doctor then requested to speak to me alone I refused and asked the Practice Manager to accompany me. The Doctor then informed me he was reporting me to Social Services for neglect, without my husband being present he then further breached confidentiality by telling the two paramedics that arrived that there was “a social services issue with the mother” an unproven allegation which he did not explain to them how or why could impact Arthur’s care.
In my opinion I was punished by a male doctor for daring to challenge him, his position and his judgment. The Doctor maliciously reported me to Social Services for endangering my son.
The impact this has had on my mental health and my family has been immeasurable. The Practice Manager at the time apologised for the Doctors behaviour and promised me he would “be dealt with”.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the Practice Manager and Health Trust and the response I received was that he did nothing wrong and followed protocol.
It’s been seven weeks since he made his referral to Social Services, in the meantime my Health Visitor has reassured me I have nothing to worry about and the hospital said they had no concerns. That hasn’t been enough. I’ve been a parent for 18 years, on my own for 15 of them taking responsibility for all the care and all the decisions. After trying my hardest to seek medical attention for my son I was then accused of child endangerment and neglect.
Seven weeks this has been hanging over me. Seven weeks I haven’t wanted to be left alone with Arthur in case he becomes unwell and I have to make another judgement call and maybe get it wrong. 7 weeks I’ve scrutinised my parenting and wondered if I’m doing a good enough job. This all because, I believe, a male Doctor took exception to being challenged by a woman. At no point did he address or berate my husband for his lack of care and nor was he named in the referral to Social Services despite having equal parental responsibility.
Seven weeks it took Child Services to write me a letter asking me to respond to the allegations. Imagine if Arthur had been in a dangerous home environment, what could have happened in the two months it took them to write to me from receiving the referral.
I finally spoke to Child Services on Friday and the lady I spoke to said that they would support me in taking my complaint further and that as far as they we’re concerned there was no further action needed.
I’m not going to leave it. It’s not okay that this man was able to abuse his professional position and power to put me in my place and try to silence me because I challenged him.
I have been made to feel like a bad mother and a bad person. Immediately, after this event suicidal and felt like my children would be better off without me. I’m lucky that I had the support of my husband and my friends and my health visitor.
I will be writing back to the health trust demanding answers to the questions they ignored and if needs be I will be also be writing to the ombudsman.
The health care in the deprived area in which I live is poor at best. As patients we should be empowered and encouraged to speak out against poor practice and make suggestions for improvements where we see the need, not punished and silenced and be in fear of having our names and families dragged through the mud because we dared to speak out.
We should expect the highest levels of care and professionalism from our Health Care professionals and not fear repurcussions for pointing out failings in the system.
I know I’m a good mum and a good person and I’m not pushing this just for me. I’m pushing it for the next person who maybe isn’t strong enough to stand up and say “No, that’s not ok”.