Glad tidings from Frustrated upon Avon

Hello dear readers. A bit of a delay since my last mailing. I seem to make a habit of this these days. Sorry folks. But the thing is I’m still keen to blog but find it harder to find the motivation to write at the moment. Is that an age thing? It’s definitely not lack of subject matter, as you’re about to discover. The need to proceed without hassle burns as brightly as ever. But I rarely achieve it these days…

So what’s this posting about? Well, as so often happens, it’s a bit of a rant about frustrating bureaucracy. I’m sure readers must think I make this crap up but I swear it’s all true. I’ve got a collection of trying issues to share with you. Here we go…

First up our daughter Becksy who’s back living with us. After living independently for many years, she returned to us at the turn of the year having regressed quite badly during lock down. We were quite shocked to discover how badly her health and condition had deteriorated under her ‘so called’ care regime, during the pandemic. We’ve worked hard to get her healthy again and to make things as supportive and loving as we possibly can. We’re looking for some independent living options near where we now live but there’s nothing available currently and the reality is she’s now back with her 70 year old parents. This kind of wasn’t our life plan for Becksy, bless her.

To complicate matters she’s had a degenerative arthritic knee condition since her teens and she had a fall down some stairs earlier this year which has significantly worsened her condition. After lots of effort she’s able to walk short distances without walking aids now but she still needs a wheel chair for anything other than v short walks. After a lot of medical attention including hospitalisation we submitted all the necessary evidence and the Gov’s DWP has now accepted that she needs significant PIP mobility support which guarantees her a blue badge automatically.

I have to tell you that getting a wheelchair out of a regular car parking space can be a real hassle and we’ve been doing it for 6 months or more. So we applied To Warwicks County Council as soon as we learned that she’d got the full automatic entitlement.

Several weeks later I’d heard nothing so I gave them a call. I eventually got through to somebody  who acknowledged Becksy’s application which had been lodged for several weeks. He told me that it was currently taking between 8 -12 weeks for each application. So we’d need to be patient and wait for the outcome to be judged.

That seemed like a pretty significant delay so I politely asked just how many applications did they receive  each week. Oh a lot he said. Yes but is that 50 or 500 – he wouldn’t say. But surely there’s a difference I suggested between applicants like Becksy who were automatically approved by HMG and cases which needed to be assessed by the authority independently. I could understand that they need a lot more time to assess all the supporting evidence for these applications. Yes he said, it does takes time. But HMG have said Becksy deserves automatic qualification so why should there be a delay in these cases? Well he said we process things on a strictly date order of receipt. Yes, I said, but wouldn’t it make sense for you to grade applications (triage style) between automatic candidates and those who you would have to make a considered judgement upon?  So that  HMG automatically-approved candidates were fast-tracked? No he said, WCC policy was to take each case in turn.

The Gov’t have accepted she needs full mobility support, now. But WCC cannot react accordingly it seems. It’s been 6 months of getting Becksy in/out of our car with an awkward, heavy wheelchair in tight spaces so what’s another 4 months? Sigh. It makes you feel that the system isn’t really designed to support people but to have a process in place that suits the authority first.

Over to my lovely wife Caz who’s had a recent developing problem with a heart flutter, necessitating a couple of recent hospital visits.  It’s really worrying because the medical people are struggling to identify the problem exactly and come up with a suitable remedy. Anyway earlier this week Caz had another episode and was taken into Warwicks hospital via the emergency services early in the morning. I had to stay with Becksy so not an easy situation.

Caz kept us updated and she was clearly in the right place for tests to be undertaken etc. But being taken into A&E these days is a painfully slow experience as we all know. The situation was complicated because I was also scheduled to go to West Middsex Hosp in London for a blood test the same day for my annual oncology review. Anyway we resolved it and we made it back to Warwick to collect Caz from the hospital around 7.30pm. After numerous tests there was  some doubt about whether Caz should stay in or be discharged. They hadn’t really isolated a condition but they wanted to change Caz’s medications and bring forward a cardiologist appointment and scan etc. After an hour and a half of faffing they agreed to release Carol but they were too buy to complete the discharge papers and the new medications. So they asked if we could return the next morning to collect them. No problem I said. Just call ahead mid-morning to check that all was ready they suggested, but early next day they’d be ready, no problem. Fine.

Next morning I called around 11.15am and the phone just rang out. I called again 11.45am and it rang out again with no reply. Given it was at least 30 mins away I decided to head out to the hospital. I reached the ward about 12.25pm and spoke to the senior nurse on duty. I gave her Carol’s details and asked if I could collect her med’s and discharge papers. Did somebody call you to say they were ready she asked? No but I was told they’d be ready this morning and to call ahead to check that they they were. And I’ve called twice but nobody answered. And as I stood talking to her the phone on the desk was ringing  out unanswered. Just like this I pointed out – you never seem to answer the phone. We are busy she answered. I get that but what am I supposed to do? Why tell me to call if it’s never answered?

She suggested I come back later. My indignant nerve kicked in. Look, I know you’re busy but it took you 13 hours to not make a decision about what was troubling my wife yesterday, you then took an hour and a half to decide whether to discharge her or not, and couldn’t supply doc’s or med’s when she did get released. I was asked to return this morning when the med’s would be certainly ready and it’s now 12.45, and you say they aren’t done. Not just that but I understand there’s no consultant around until after lunchtime (whenever that ends) and that it’ll take at least an hour for him/her to complete the discharge doc’s once returned and then at least an hour or two for someone to collect the med’s from the pharmacy given it’s the w/e.  So you’re asking me come back again after 4pm? It’ll be another hour’s return trip for me and that will be 19 hours after my wife was discharged. Just how long do these things take?  Having now attracted quite a crowd  I decided to deliver my coup de grace. I think you guys do an incredible job under the most intense pressure, I acknowledged, but you know your big problem – it’s dreadful communications. You never say what the real issues and timescales are. You fob people off with inaccurate responses. It’ll be ready in the morning is not the same as 5pm the next evening. Now I accept it was a different staff nurse who gave me the advice. But generally why can’t you be more precise and honest with people?  I’d far prefer you all to tell me straight how things might be. Then we can plan our lives around that. Just try and understand things from the perspective of the patients and their families for once.

The gathered crowd were now murmuring their support. Her first reaction was to say why don’t you call me in a couple of hours time, then changed her mind when she saw the look on my face. Better still, let me take your details and I’ll call you when everything’s ready Paul. OK I said, I’m not impressed to be asked to come out again but the important thing is to get my wife’s med’s sorted.

I headed home to Stratford and Carol couldn’t believe I’d blown nearly two hours without coming home with her necessary doc’s and med’s. But there is a nice ending. After an hour or so I got a call from ‘Linda’ – the senior nurse – who said the discharge doc’s had been signed and the med’s were being collected. Should I head over then Linda? No Paul. She’d arranged a home delivery service which she subsequently confirmed had set out about half an hour later.  The stuff arrived 30 mins after her second call.

I was staggered and, of course, delighted. But it does show, sadly, that if you make a fuss you then get listened to.  But look it was a super outcome. I just wish Caz’s condition was resolved  as quickly. She’s making progress but sadly isn’t fully right but hopefully she’ll get there.

Next up a real doozy of a rant over mobile banking bureaucracy. I’ve been looking to set up a new interest-earning savings account. Caz suggested a bank that she uses for her and Becks which she’s really pleased with. Fine. The only issue is that I needed a separate personal account. I just use our joint account with our existing online bank. Caz suggested I try a Starling personal account which she and every ratings agency seems to think is the best mobile bank. So I called them up and got through to the website and started to apply for an account. After inputting my mobile phone details I got a ‘sorry that mobile phone is already linked to an account’ message.

Eh? It turned out that during lockdown we needed to set up an account for Becksy so she could use a bank card rather than cash for her incidental expenses. Caz started to set it up but because we didn’t want Becks to get lots of bank messages on her phone which would spook her, it’d be better to set it up with our contact details. So Caz used my phone details as the contact point. However before the end of the process it became clear that they weren’t happy to accept Becks as a client because of her condition (on the grounds that it’d be too difficult for her to manage the account etc). So Caz aborted the application. However my mobile number was still lodged in their system as potentially logged against a particular account. Sigh.

So we called them up. And do you know how long you have to wait to get an answer with online banking? Forever. A nice lady answered and Caz took her through the issues. We needed to release my number so that I could have my own account. She perfectly understood the problem but said to solve the issue we’d have to call in again. Eh? It was about separate accounts and a security requirement. Sigh. So another 40 minute wait till we got through again. Caz re-explained the problem and the outcome was that we’d have to cancel Becksy’s aborted account request. But Becksy would have to do it (even though Caz was setting it up for her). Sigh. We explained that Becksy had Down’s Syndrome and we managed her accounts, but they just said she’d personally have to cancel the account to release my phone number.

So it required another phone call in (and 40 minute wait) and Becks had to answer a whole series of security questions, which we’d briefed her on. Becksy bless her answered all the technical/security questions. However at the end of the conversation the lady at the other end said one answer had been answered incorrectly and she hinted it was the e-mail address Caz had used to set up the account. She couldn’t accept us suggesting alternate emails addresses for Becksy.  We’d have to call in again. Arrrggghh.

FFS. I’d lost the will to live at this point. So I thought I’d just try another bank. How hard can it be to set up a simple bank account? Jeez.  So I looked online and found a good recommendation for Monzo. I filled in a number of details only to discover that, after half an hour, I needed an IPhone that offered software version at least 13.0 and mine was version 12.5. So I couldn’t proceed. FFS.

So I went online again and tried the next best recommended which was First Direct’s digital account. I filled in a ton and a half of personal details which took me forever but at least they seemed happy enough with my mobile software, until I got to the final input when I got a prompt to say there was technical problem, and suggested I ring their call centre.  Aw FFS. We’d done this 3 times already without success.

Fuck it, I’d try another bank so I  logged onto Revolut. Yet again I inputted personal details before getting a prompt to download their App to my phone. I’d get a text message to tell me when it was ready to upload. After 5 hours and no response I went to bed. Frustrated yet again.

Next lunchtime I suddenly got a bleep to tell me I’d got a text message and there it was, a link to the Revolut App. I uploaded it and started to fill it in, only to reach the point where they advised me that my mobile software wasn’t updated enough to support an account.

Arrgghh. I’m clearly destined not to have a personal account despite being almost 70 years of age.  And this was all a precursor to setting up a new joint interest-earning account. Fuck it I’ll just use our regular account.

Is it just me? I cannot be the only unlucky sod who faces frustration on a mega-scale like this.  Why is it so hard to get things sorted these days? Answers on a postcard please.

It doesn’t have to be like this, surely…paulie





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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

6 thoughts on “Glad tidings from Frustrated upon Avon

  1. Brilliant read as always Paul. Boy, do I sympathise. Nothing on that mega scale but we sold our house, sadly, in Tenerife and had to go through the trauma ion a) getting our money back home, getting it home safely and getting the best possible exchange rate. Eventually it landed but I thought it a good idea to get Janette a credit card rather than go about using her bank account cars. Well, she failed the assessment and even though I have someone called a “private banking” executive even he couldn’t help. We just wanted a £1k limit, settled by DD each month. Nope, no credit history. I won’t bother you with the steam coming out of every orifice but totally understand and share your frustrations with the banking industry

  2. Hey Paul. Sorry to hear about Caz and Becks being so poorly – give them a hug from us both and hope they get sorted soon.
    Online stuff is great when working properly but as soon as you get a problem then trying to get hold of a real person to sort it out is difficult enough, before even trying to get the problem/issue resolved successfully. Started to use online chat, rather than phone, but it still takes a long time but with slightly more success!

    • Hi guys

      Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind wishes. We’re just had some more health issues with Becksy but I’ll update later. Anyway hope you guys are well. I’m not sure I trust online anymore than the phone. It makes you long for the old person-to-person analogue ways eh! Stay well

  3. Pauli, so good to see you here again even for a marathon rant. So sorry to read about Caz and Becksy not being 100% so do keep us updated on the outcomes.
    With you all the way with online banking. Last year I was paying a bill on line and entered an incorrect digit for the payee. Let’s try again and the site went down and when I eventually got back on I was locked out. I called and was eventually put through to the fraud department of RBS which I think was based somewhere on the Subcontinent. After answering a load of security questions I was told that I had failed on one answer so the account was still blocked. Go to your local branch with ID, we don’t have one as all 3 were closed recently I said. Ok go to a Nat West with ID to sort it out. Next day at the Nat West counter armed with passports, driving licences and recent utility bills “we can’t do that here, you need to see the manager and he is on Lunch” she said, ” but you can take a seat over there whilst you wait for him”. 45 minutes later we are in the manager’s office as he calls the Fraud Dept who then ask us both (joint account) a load of security questions. The manager sees that I am about to explode so he takes the phone and tells the advisor that as we are sitting with him he can verify our identity and to get the account unblocked. Security comes back to me to tell me that as the account is being unblocked the bank will not cover me if there is any fraudulent activity on the account. Here is the conundrum, this account was opened in 1966 as I started my first job and they do not deserve our business but as I approach my 80th year I can’t be bothered to change it. 20 years ago the account would have been closed there and then but it’s an age thing.
    Love to the girls,
    John and Chris

    • Arggh. It’s just so the way it is today old friend. You just despair. It just seems so counter-intuitive why they can’t fix an account for an existing or new client. Don’t they want our business FFS? Have we really made any progress? Sigh. Anyway have a lulu of another update but will save that for the net but one posting otherwise folks won’t believe all the crap that happens. Stay well guys.


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