Bed blocker’ label is tantamount to abuse

Reflections and learning
1st February 2015

Listening to radio 4 while driving yesterday, I was engrossed. It was a phone-in programme about the NHS being ‘weaponised’ as the UK hurtles towards another general election.

Pretty much everyone phoning in said political parties should stop point scoring. But few thought it would be possible to extricate the NHS from politics. Elections are won and lost on whether or not public services like the NHS are delivering what the electorate expect them to.

What jarred though was the words being used. In the past the NHS was a ‘political football’ now it is being ‘weaponised’.

When did that shift in language happen?

And importantly, what does the shift to such violent nomenclature suggest? Are we becoming immune to the meanings of words? And if so, how does this affect our psyche?

‘Bed blocker’ was the other term at the centre of much debate.

One lady caller asserted that calling anyone a bed blocker in Canada would be tantamount to abuse. She added that, by using the term, politicians were placing the faults of the system on the shoulders of the individuals caught up in the web of delays.

They were passing the buck and she was passing it back. Her point was well made.

It’s not just politicians who use the bed blocker term though; it’s widely used. Just look at the headlines over the last couple of months:

“Bed blockers blamed for crisis in A&E”

“Bed blocking fine fears for the elderly”

“Bed blocking crisis putting strain on the Scottish NHS”

The term ‘bed blocker’ is loaded with judgement yet hides a mass of compelxity.

If I was called a bed blocker, it would undoubtedly affect how I saw myself. It’s feels pejorative. I might even feel persecuted; certainly singled out. If however, my ‘discharge was delayed’, well, I wouldn’t feel quite so personally responsible. It would be an ‘us’ issue rather than my problem alone.

I recognise that there are some circumstances where people are reluctant to leave hospital till an agreeable alternative is available, but these are surely the minority.

So come on, if the NHS is to be truly person centred, it too should ban the bed blocker label. Levy a fine at those using the term rather than the people whose discharge is delayed!


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