Thursday, 30 April 2009

21st Century Britain?

I was shocked. I tried not to show it, and hope I did so successfully. But I was still horrified. And the scene? Not one of traumatic injuries, not one of neglect, not one of abuse.
Sitting in front of me was Craig, a gentleman in his late 30's. He'd called the ambulance as he was experiencing chest pain. He'd had a heart attack about a year ago (they seem to be getting younger and younger), and now he had the same pain back again. He's supposed to be on a whole list of medications since his heart attack, but for some reason he's not been taking them recently. I asked him what medications he was supposed to be taking, to which he answered that he was on something for blood pressure, something for cholesterol, something for the heart. But he didn't know what any of them were called.
Craig's pain seemed to be easing with the treatment we were giving him. His pulse and blood pressure were sky-high, but his ECG wasn't too scary. This is 21st century Britain, so we have the technology to assess the patient, the drugs with which to treat him, the NHS to provide it all, so with a little luck (and some self-discipline!) Craig should be OK.
But is this really 21st Century Britain? The reason Craig couldn't tell me what medications wasn't due to a memory lapse or an inability to pronounce the names.
Craig is illiterate. That's what shocked me so much. Maybe I'm naive, but I can't see how someone who grew up in this country in the last 30 years can be in a position where he can't read or write. How can we be proud of all we've achieved when there are still people on our own doorstep who seem to live in the 3rd world?
21st Century? I think we still have some way to go to catch up...


Edward said...

At least you don't have to worry about Craig taking offense to your blog - he can't read it.
Guess it stops you taking things like literacy for granted, I love reading & writing. Wake up call.


Anonymous said...

I know how you feel, i was gobsmacked when i had to read and fill out the medical form for a new patient at the dentist a few years ago...and he didn't seem at all bothered by it. It's a disability that we all ignore. V. proud of you and your blogging btw!

Anonymous said...

People with learning disorders still fall through the cracks. Parents often don't have the knowledge or resources (or confidence) to step in when the schooling system fails...

I wouldn't be surprised at all if he was considered one of those 'problem children' at school, when the root of it was he couldn't keep up with the standardized pace of schooling.

Eileen said...

Judging by his age I suspect he may have well been in the period when there was no use of phonetics at all. English - I'm sure you know this - is a horrible language to learn to pronounce because it isn't phonetic like German, for example, where you learn the sound made by a letter or group of letters, join the groups together and away you go.
It's been the subject of a lot of controversy here in England but in Scotland they have used an artificial phonetic system in combination with other techniques for years and have often found that people who had been given up on at school are able to learn to read when they are taught to use this method. As they learn a group of sounds they have a specially written book for the sounds they already know. And they have the success feeling of having read a whole book. No, a normal book may be beyond them for a while - and this is the main criticism - but not forever and they soon have a big enough "vocabulary" to read headlines, then the subtitles and so on.
For many years the system used was "look and say". You looked at the shape of a word and some of the letters and made a stab at what word it was. Like learning to read a set of pictures - so there was often a mix-up of similar words or your memory wasn't up to it - and unless there was one-to-one reading aloud with correction it couldn't work well.
A child who can't read is unable to keep up with any other subject either if you think about it. Go and sit in a class using a foreign language you don't know anything about - you soon get bored and feel left out. And what is your average fed-up small boy going to do? Cause trouble or be the funny guy - and where will that lead to?
It's a shame and a disgrace that something apparently relatively simple has such a long-term awful result - and if you can't read your drugs labels, what happens to compliance?
Now I'll get off my hobby horse and say - like the blog btw!!!!!

Ben Yatzbaz said...

Thanks all for your comments... Eileen - don't worry about being on your hobby horse - I'm glad that even the slightly off-the-subject posts raise talking points and make people stop and think! It's a subject that I can't really say I'd ever thought about - so it was definitely an eye-opener for me!