Time to prescribe Citizens Advice?
Posted on 12 June 2012 by Flora Tristan
What we can achieve as GPs is important, but necessarily limited. We need to work with other agencies.
Mr Thorne is desperate. He is a 56-year-old casual builder’s labourer, just back to part-time work after a fracture of the femur last year. But four weeks ago new people moved into the flat above, and they are making his life and that of his family a nightmare.
Noise, loud music and laughter persist throughout the night, scantily clad young women arrive in taxis at all hours, and the door of the flat is guarded by muscle men with whom you would not wish to get into a disagreement.
Mr Thorne cannot sleep, frequently cannot get to work, which means he loses pay, is getting hip pain again in the night and is worried about his wife, who is the only regular breadwinner in the family.
His daughters have been propositioned by men on the stairs. The police apparently know about the situation but have yet to make any move.
I am angry. I let him talk, close to tears, for some time, and most unusually for me I agree to give him a few benzodiazepines. But mainly I urge him to see his MP, his councillor, the police (again) and above all the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau).
He needs legal help, and all I can do is offer to provide medical reports expeditiously when they are needed.
Next in is Alfred who weeps freely, head in hands. He has been off work for a few days here and there over the past six months because of exacerbations of his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, though he has very admirably managed to give up smoking entirely.
Now, completely out of the blue, he has been found to be in atrial fibrillation. He has seen cardiology and begun warfarin, and has had to come for bloods while the dose is settled.
So, more mornings off, and his work, he reports, has ‘terminated his contract’ — that’s sacked him, to you and me. Alfred feels helpless in the face of this disaster, and so do I.
Despite all those seminars and teaching sessions about work and health, I do not know anything like enough about employment law to be able to advise Alfred properly about his legal situation.
I urge him, as I did Mr Thorne, to seek advice as soon as possible. He is not, of course, in a union as the company ‘doesn’t like them’ (I’m not sure if that’s legal either), so again I suggest he seeks help from the CAB and its lawyers and I will fill in the medical blanks as requested.
What on earth would we — and, more importantly, the patients — do without these sources of help?
Flora Tristan, an inner-city GP