Recently a friend of ours lost her mother.
Her mother lived at home, but had a care assistant come round regularly so our friend knew her mother was in safe hands. A neighbour also checked occasionally.
She knew her mother was ill and was expecting her death to be sooner rather than later. So normally hearing about the death of your mother in these circumstances wouldn’t lead to a lot of stress and heartache as you would be prepared for it. In fact our friend had done so in terms of insuring that paper work etc was up to date.
However our friend was very upset and stressed out when she was told that her mother had died.
The first she heard about the deterioration of her mother’s health was one morning when the neighbour rang to say that her mother had not followed her usual routine and that when they knocked on the door there was no reply. So our friend rang the care assistant who went round to check.
The care assistant rang later that morning and said “Don’t worry too much, but your mother is not too well.” When asked specifically what the problem was the care worker reluctantly replied that “She’s not breathing, but don’t worry I’ve called the ambulance”. The care worker than rang off as the ambulance had arrived which left our friend in a bit of a state not knowing what to do or what was happening.
She waited a few minutes.
She didn’t live locally and it would take her over an hour to drive to her mother’s house. She rang the care assistant again to check what has happening. She was then told that the ambulance was taking her mother to hospital and that she would be informed what the result was when the doctors had seen her. Though not actually told that her mother was breathing she assumed the best since her mother was being taken to hospital. She then spent panicking about what to do. Should she wait for the hospital to ring or should she go to the hospital and see her mother in what was probably her last hours. But the hospital could ring whilst she was driving and if the news was bad would she be able to carry on driving.
So she decided to wait.
It was now late afternoon with no news, some time after her mother had been taken to hospital, so she rang the hospital to check on her mother’s situation. She was told that her mother was being seen to by the nurses. When asked if she should go to the hospital she was advised to “wait a bit till the doctor had seen her”.
So she waited some more.
A short time later she got a call from the hospital to let her know that her mother had died. By now our friend was in quite a state, what with the lack of information and the delays and being unable to see her mother.
What made our friend emotions even more raw was what she found out later when she spoke to the neighbour at the funeral.
What actually happened was that our friend’s mother had died in her sleep.
The care assistant couldn’t tell the daughter that her mother was dead as she was not allowed to say so which is why she said “she’s not breathing” and even that was not supposed to have been said.
The nurses couldn’t tell the daughter that her mother was dead as they were not allowed to say that someone is dead as they had to wait for the doctor to sign the death certificate before the could pass on the news. The doctor was busy so didn’t sign the certificate straight away which increased the delay till late afternoon.
The care worker, the ambulance medics, the nurses, and the doctor were all “following procedure”. What they were not doing is thinking of the other people involved in the situation. All they were concerned about was following procedure so that if anything went wrong they wouldn’t be penalised. The writer of the procedure is never penalised.
Many people in Britain now follow procedures rather than be given responsibility to act in a way that the situation requires. That’s not say that procedures are bad things, far from it. It helps people understand where they fit in to a bigger scheme, it helps train people, and it can ensure that steps are followed. But blindly following procedure to the exclusion of all else is stupidity.
Not taking responsibility is now the way to do your job. That’s because people are led to believe that if they do take responsibility for their actions and something goes wrong, they will lose their jobs or their organisation will be penalised which will affect their job prospects.
If the care worker could just have been allowed to just say that “Your mother is not breathing, I think she died in her sleep, but I’ve called the ambulance to make sure” then our friend would most likely have been comforted by the thought that her mother didn’t suffer. As it was she was led all along to believe that her mother must have been aware of what was happening as she was resuscitated and taken to hospital.