Friday, April 27, 2007

Spin the wheel and place your bets...

And so it goes...

Nicky received a phone call yesterday that left us both delighted. The fact that it also struck a particularly raw nerve makes it worthy of comment here. Another family in the CICS club that we have come to know had just been through their bilateral implant appeal hearing. Their son, deafened by meningitis at the age of eight and implanted (on one side) for a year and a half or so, has been given the go-ahead by their local PCT (Primary Care Trust). A PCT, by the way, that shares a border with ours but, hey, there are no prizes for proximity in this particular lottery.

The news that one more deaf child will benefit from bilateral implantation is an event to be celebrated but we would have to be supremely altruistic not to feel a pang of frustration at the astounding randomness of it. The weight of evidence is not greater in Derbyshire than it is here and I'm pretty certain their case didn't differ too much from ours. How can I be certain? Because we spoke at great length in the days leading up to the hearing and shared everything we had used ourselves with them.

Wait, it gets better.

A family in the South of England got a bilateral implant for their daughter on appeal in autumn last year. Their PCT were persuaded by an excellent letter written by the mum, accompanied as it was by useful references and web links. The letter was reprinted in the CICS newsletter, hopefully so that it can be sent to the ever-dwindling number of recalcitrant (and/or broke) PCTs who still claim there is insufficient evidence.

I bring your attention to this one because the article that accompanied it contained lines such as this:

I've always thought that families who have a deaf child are a part of a bigger spiritual family. Jason, Nicky and Tom Broekhuizen are living proof of this belief, as if it wasn't for that late night phone call and all their insight I'm sure that the outcome for funding would have been different.

This is not an attempt to 'big' us up; any insight we have is simple research and the painful experience of going through the process. We families are all in the same boat and we will happily talk to anyone about our experiences. Its not even as if we're charmed in any way either ('natter to me and all your implant wishes will come true') as other families will testify. The point is, of course, that as close to the same case as makes no odds has been made to several PCTs with profoundly differing outcomes. This is not a stunning revelation but that doesn't mean that it is any less galling or any less absurd.

I have tried to understand healthcare legislation once or twice and it bored me to tears (you'd think it was done that way deliberately). I am sure, somewhere 'in the beginning', that there were some semi-solid reasons for allowing different PCTs to decide for themselves which services their citizens could have access to but didn't anyone foresee this sort of situation?

There's something basic about wanting to be treated fairly - some of my clearest of memories of school teaching are of kids protesting vehemently about perceived unfairness - and it is that injustice which keeps us fuming. If no-one in the country had access to bilateral implants it would undoubtedly be easier to accept. Undoubtedly we would be lobbying like crazy for parity with the US or most of Europe but it wouldn't be quite as 'in your face'.

I'm at a loss. What next then? Any ideas?

1 comment:

Charles said...

The point is of course that different parts of the country do have differing demands for medical care for different problems. In Scotland it might be dislodging deep-fried Mars Bars from throats; in Manchester surgeons might see more gunshot wounds; in Cornwall more skin cancer.

That doesn't of course excuse having different responses to demands for bilateral implants, which are hardly regional in need. But you can see that they might have more resources allocated for skin cancer in Cornwall than Shetland. It sort of works that way, to the extent that it works at all.