Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Are we protecting data or protecting people?

On Sunday, my confused and flustered 85 year-old mother fainted in church and was admitted to the local A&E. They checked her ECG and blood pressure, but did not test her for a urinary tract infection (one of the chief causes of sudden confusion in the elderly). It also did not occur to them to inform her next of kin or a neighbour, or to ask her how she was going to get home, or even if she had the fare for a taxi home. On being discharged, this confused, vulnerable, elderly woman somehow WALKED the two miles home, where she went to bed, exhausted. Quite by chance, her next-door neighbour happened to bump into someone who had seen Mum collapse in church. He rang the doorbell. There was no answer. So he phoned my sister, who discovered, TEN HOURS after the event, that Mum had collapsed. When my sister went round, Mum had absolutely no recollection of any of what had happened. My sister has taken two days off work to chase our excellent family doctor to find out that Mum has an infection. When my sister rang the hospital for information, a curt staff nurse informed her that she could not pass on any details of Mum`s case even to her next of kin, on the grounds of data protection legislation. Wonderful! So we can protect our data, but we can`t protect vulnerable people?