an exhausted Kinghorn mum is appealing for help in restoring her severely disabled daughter’s quality of life after she says a change in care provider left her “high and dry.”
Joyce Lambert, who is a full-time carer for her daughter Natalie Lawrie, at their home in Strathmore Street, Kinghorn, says that since Natalie went from being a child cared for under the NHS to an adult and changing over to being cared for through Fife Council’s social work department under a private company, her quality of life has gone drastically downhill.
Natalie (17), was left paralysed from the neck down after being struck down by meningitis just over four years ago.
She relies on a ventilator to breath for her and, although she can speak, she is unable to swallow.
After a lengthy treatment in the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh, Natalie was allowed home to live, with round-the-clock care provided by NHS Fife and her mum who had to undergo full training to be able to look after her daughter.
However Joyce said that since August, when Natalie was classed as an adult, her care had transferred to the Council’s social work department which appointed private healthcare firm Nurse Plus to provide a care plan, she had experienced nothing but problems and Natalie’s quality of life, as well as her own, had gone downhill.
“They sent out someone to speak to Natalie to see what she wanted and she said she didn’t want anyone younger than 25 caring for her and she didn’t want them to wear a uniform as she would feel too conspicuous if she was out in her wheelchair,” explained Joyce.
“The first carer they sent was 18 and hadn’t a clue what she was doing and then a 19-year-old in uniform was sent.
‘‘We have had people who have told us they are not qualified to undertake the work they are supposed to do - dealing with the respirator, catheter, medication and everything else that has to be done on a regular basis, and one person even tried to give her a drink of water which could have killed her!
“They are not turning up for shifts.
‘‘In the last six months I have done more than 100 shifts on my own, which is breaching the contract I was given that Natalie should have 24/7 care from a qualified carer.
“At times after doing two shifts back to back I am left completely shattered, which is dangerous.
‘‘And if there is nobody else there then I can’t lift Natalie to shower or dress her and she has to be left in bed for hours at a time.
“It has been a disaster and the only time she is happy is when we get some of the nurses from the NHS bank who have dealt with her before and know what they are doing.
‘‘All I want is for my daughter to have a decent quality of life – to be able to have a shower and wash her hair when she needs it, to be dressed and go out for a walk or enjoy some sort of normal daily routine which she used to do.
“I can’t go on like this and I’m at the end of my tether, but I just get passed from pillar to post.”
Helen Townsend, service manager with Fife Council, said: “We appreciate that this has been a really difficult time for Natalie and her mum but would like to reassure them we’re all committed to finding the best solution for Natalie as soon as we can.
“We know there have been issues with the current arrangements so we’ve been working hard with Natalie and her mum to identify a suitable alternative.
“This is a complex case and because of that it’s important to take time to get it right for everyone involved.
“That means finding a solution that meets all of Natalie and her mum’s needs and we’ll continue to work with them both to find an alternative. We hope to have new arrangements in place within the next two to three weeks.”