The Only Thing Tested Was My Patience

by Dawn M. Sanders

The simplest things are often not only unnecessarily complicated, but inaccessible.  I’m SO FED UP with official types making a song-and-dance of the most routine acts, let alone a lack of insight and an insistence that everyone fits a one-size-fits-all model.

At the beginning of this year, I felt ill.  No cough or fever, just a bunged-up head like a cabbage, listless, not a drop of energy etc, but then I lost my sense of smell and taste. As I had at least one covid symptom, I thought maybe I should do a test.

I rang my GP to ask if I could go to the surgery to do a test, only to be told they don’t do them there and the only way to find out the nearest walk-in centre where I could hopefully get assistance with the test (as I’m visually impaired and live alone) was on the government website. So, I went onto the site, filled in all the information, but it didn’t give me an option to book an appointment – in fact, as I couldn’t book an appointment filling in the online form was useless, and I spent over an hour on it for nothing. I rang my GP surgery back for a second time (luckily getting someone different who actually suggested I ring 119 to find out the nearest walk-in centre, but why wasn’t I given that number the first time? I called 119, danced through their options and found that there were no appointments and was advised to ring later as appointments came up every few hours. So, I rang back later that day, but had to ring a third time as the woman who took my call on the second time, cut me off. Going through the options yet again, I was finally able to book an appointment at a walk-in centre the next day.

However, when I took a taxi to a marquee set up in a car park, serving as the testing centre, I got there only to be told they didn’t help with doing them there and they refused to help me with the test. And, what I got was a steady stream of patronising questions, ‘didn’t I have someone to help at home’ – not listening to when I said I live alone. As I sat in a small room and the walk-in centre attendant stood in the doorway, continuing to spout the usual: “I feel your frustration” or “did someone organise you coming down here?” “Yeah, ‘I organised it’” I snapped, sick and tired of the presumption that, if your visually impaired you can’t possibly organise your own life! His manager suggested going to another walk-in centre, but turns out it was a drive-through centre – like that would have done me any good? The only thing they were worried about from then on, was getting me out of there and into a taxi home. I was furious, because I was out-of-pocket £20 in a taxi to and from the centre – not getting any help, so it was a useless, costly exercise and I was exhausted.

I complained, but even then was pushed from pillar to post, as my GP tried to give me the run around again, so I insisted they forward on my complaint to the relevant NHS department on the complex website. Yet, I didn’t hear anything for something like 4 to 5 weeks, in other words – just the other day.  The person responding on behalf of the NHS asked me for the date and time of when I visited the walk-in centre which, was laughable – it had been over a month ago. So, I responded like, ‘how am I supposed to know that – I forgot all about it, as you took so long to respond? Surprisingly, I got another response well, just today with the same old cliché, ‘I understand your frustration’ which, in my opinion is about as tired and over-used as, ‘did you get a good result’ parrot response when you tell someone you went to the doctor…

Today’s response was more conciliatory and like, ‘your nearest walk-in centre, with trained staff to do assisted tests, was Honiton (A village about an hour from me, depending on how you travel, but not one I’m familiar with) as assisted testing centres are only regional, apparently. It also said how more efforts were being made to train walk-in testing centre staff on equality/diversity.  They’re going to be offering assistance with Be My Eyes – an app which is just like a video call to a volunteer, so I’ll give them an E for effort, but wrote a final response reminding them it was all too little too late and that any public service should train their staff in E&D from the outset and not wait until someone like me has to go through the unnecessary hassle and expense – what an afterthought! I didn’t bother telling the guy who wrote me back and actually signed his name, that I didn’t use a smart phone, so wouldn’t use the app i.e., debunking the one-size-fits-all model again…

Rant over and you get the gist.  I regained my sense of smell and taste within a few days and with a lot of rest, Menuka honey, vitamins and healthy eating (which isn’t anything out of the ordinary) I felt better, but by that time I could care less whether I had a mild version of the monster thing or not – as far as I was concerned I had a little bout of flu where, you often lose smell and taste anyway.  I took a lateral flow test in mid-January out of necessity upon visiting my son, who lives with support workers present all the time and it was negative – so I’ve done my bit. JEAEAEASUS!

© 2022

Support Barriers to Bridges Magazine

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