Thursday, 27 August 2009

Liars, scammers, blaggers and Blue Badges.

We have all been accosted many times recently by our new senior head receptionist who has asked us if we had done some Blue Badge forms. These forms have been deemed, by the patient, to be “URGENT”. They had been on someone’s desk for at least 2 days in the midst of an alleged flu pandemic. Hence the patient used their God given right to abuse reception staff and chastise them for them not having got these forms completed to their satisfaction for no cost to the patient.

For those who do not know what a Blue Badge is, it is explained here. Normally Blue Badges are best seen in supermarkets in the parking slots closest to the entrance usually occupied by teenagers who have nicked their Grandma’s Blue Badge who are playing their 700W stereo systems in their Scoobys while their mate goes for 3 X 24 can packs of lager that they carry out to their car on their shoulders (unaided) and bare chested with tattoos on display.

There is even a possible black market for them if you read here. Why pay the London congestion charge when a nicked Blue Badge could let you in for free? There is also another market to help protect your tresured Blue gem if you look here and here. We love free enterprise.

The standard that is usually thought to qualify for a Blue Badge by the “applicant”, our patient(s), is that:

1) you are a whinging elderly patient who feels they are important as they claimed to have worked a lifetime
2) you have your state pension, bus pass and get free prescriptions so you automatically must qualify for a Blue Badge, and
3) your next door neighbour, who is a veteran world champion decathlete, has one so I must also be eligible for one as well.

GPs across the land are asked to confirm applicant’s “disabilities” by local councils who send out Blue Badge forms and yes, we do get paid for completing them by the local councils, but much less than a mere solicitor’s letter costs.

A simple little earner you might think and so helpful for “infirmed” and “aged” patients who run marathons and travel the globe on back packing expeditions? Remember, dear reader, this is Northernshire.

The average Blue Badge applicant is old and a lifetime liar. Examples include people who attend on numerous occasions fully mobile, seen in public and able to walk miles, who never need a wheelchair to go to California to visit their relatives but do need a little help with parking to get their cases of whisky to the car before they are off on the local hunt.

These same people, if their God given right for a Blue Badge is rejected, suddenly turn up in surgery wearing callipers, clutching crutches with a exaggerated Herr Flick limp that no one has ever seen them with before. Ever.

How dare their GP deny them a Blue Badge by asking them a question and honestly reporting their answers to the local council? At their calliper enabled protest appointment, usually an emergency, they will insist that they made a mistake about being able to walk miles without stopping and insist that the only way they can get to surgery is via their teleporter system after saying “Beam me down Scottie”.

We, who wrote this piece, did not realize how much a Blue Badge could help until you have seen how complicated it is, and how long it takes, to move a patient with a severe spinal injury into a restaurant from a purpose adapted vehicle. The person concerned had only limited arm movements and can just about manage a few yards on the flat in a wheelchair using the palms of their hands as propulsion as they have no finger grip. A kerb is impossible and they cannot drive.

While we were watching the friends concerned move the Blue Badge holder with the spinal injury out of the vehicle we were also watching the couple in the next door “disabled” slot in their 40s in a dinner jacket and long evening gown in high heals park and unaided walk across the road to a Rotarian function after getting out of their sports coupe, a low slung open topped Mercedes, proudly displaying its Blue Badge.

Without the Blue Badge our friends would have would have been knackered and what took 15 minutes of manoeuvring would have taken a lot longer. This was after getting someone out of a specially converted van to take a specially adapted wheelchair using a powered lift not a low slung Mercedes with no lift.

Most people with Blue Badges don’t do this, we mean they don’t have severe spinal injuries or are in wheelchairs. They are old miserable and think society owes them something for a lifetime of doing nothing.

Society owes a duty of care to those who are genuinely ill not to those that are just genuinely old. The hassle we have had as a Practice recently over Blue Badges from the pathetic old, as opposed to the genuinely ill, has been enormous.

The old scheme was the Orange Badge (of incompetence) that used to warn other motorists of the disaster on wheels coming in their direction but this highly visible warning seems to have been replaced by the less visible Blue Badge of European Patheticness.

Blue badge applicants hassle our staff more than patients with terminal disease. Sometimes it is the genuine younger patient with disabilities that don’t get them, as they have not yet mastered the art of how to lie, unlike their older forebears, and play down their disabilities. In contrast to the old who play down and lie about their abilities.

The old are those who voted for the National Health Service out of self interest, although at the time it may have seemed like a good idea. This idealism when young has been replaced by a cynical and manipulative abusive of a service for personal gain namely the Blue Badge.

If your car is nicked by a joy rider do not blame necessarily blame them. The old always blame the young. When it comes to lying, thieving and cheating the system the old have a head start. You need look no further than the Blue Badge scheme to see this in operation on a daily basis.

Any GP knows this. The patient “knows their rights” after all after a lifetime of not paying for anything related to health they are all automatically entitled to a Blue Badge.

At what ever cost. They take no prisoners.

Praise be the Party and its Blue Badge scam, sorry scheme. Can’t be anything wrong with that as when did our MP last get a parking ticket outside Westminster? They may well be, given their “age” and financial “infirmity”, entitled to a Blue Badge as well as all pigs are equal comrades. Are they not?


Prisoner of Hope said...

Yes of course there are scroungers and malingerers and the blue badge scheme is widely open to abuse. BUT there are 2 ways of obtaining one. It does comes as a "right" to anyone on higher rate mobility benefit within the disability living allowance (The jargon is that this benefit acts as a "passport" to the blue badge).The other route to obtain a blue badge is discretionary and is up to a local authority to decide if there is a valid need. This is where at present GP surgeries may well be under pressure from the old cheats you describe.

You are intelligent enough however to realise that your experience might well be based on a skewed sample of blue badge holders and applicants. I have advised many elderly people - who, to my mind, would obviously qualify for higher rate disability allowance - at a local Age Concern Benefits Advice Centre and have been amazed at the reluctance of many to claim. There is something uplifting about that part of human nature that many of these people display when they just "get on with life" and continually adjust to the limitations they face.

They are often reluctant to give voice to these limitations. In fact many find it almost impossible to face up to the reality and in helping them to complete the lengthy claim form (that by the way took me the best part of 8 hours when I got around to applying myself) I find they are sometime brought to tears by having to state on paper the extent to which their lives have been blighted. It is often a very emotional experience as many understate these limitations as part of their daily coping mechanism. They have got on with life, gradually adjusting in all sorts of ways. Like the way the brakes fade on your car gradually and you only become aware when after a service you apply the brakes for the first time and stop more suddenly than you expected.

The DLA claim form requires them to bare their souls and confront what they try hard to avoid - I can tell you this is very hard and tears are not always held back. At the end of this process they (and I) are emotionally drained. The process brings them up short very suddenly as they come to terms with what they have successfully avoided admitting to themselves.

While wanting to discourage malingerers and old aged cheats I do think that the hurdle placed on legitimate claims by the current DLA process has gone too far the other way and many legitimate claims will be abandoned rather than individual claiments facing up to the reality of admitting how limited life has become which some find demeaning.

I sympathise with the plight you describe but believe you are basing your judgement of old age cheats on a skewed distribution of blue badge holders. I hope that you might be prepared to accept that there may well be another extreme where unecessary hurdles are placed in the way of people wanting to apply for the DLA benefit.

Perhaps the solution is to stop the discretionary route to obtaining a blue badge while making the process of claiming DLA benefit slightly less daunting

Anonymous said...

Just wait until you get old. Hopefully with the onset of maturity, you might find some empathy.

Dr Grumble said...

Mrs Grumble used to hand these things out when they were, I think, orange

Doc Doc said...

Couldn't agree more ND!

The hassle and hostility I've had from patients who feel they are entitled to a parking badge is unbelievable.

I preferred the old form where you could just ask a simple question, can you walk 100yrds unaided without stopping. Now it's less clear what criteria they use apart from Does this person have a condition that affects their mobility?

The worse attack I had was after ticking the temporary box on the form (the lady had OA and was soon to have a hip replacement) and so no parking badge was issued, apparently it is only for conditions that will not improve over the next 36 months!

Now I just sign them all to say they have a disability and send the form back. Much less hassle, until you need to find somewhere to park at Tesco!!

Prisoner of Hope said...

Dr Grumble, I read your previous relevant (and as you observe still topical posting). I'm not sure of the background to your wife's decision but it does appear to have been "well meaning" if a little confused.

I understand that the (old style?) family doctor who provided continuity of care would feel sympathetic to patients who 20 years or so ago suddenly found themselves out of work because of the "supply side" economic reforms that decimated long term employment prospects for many previously engaged in heavy industry.

Successive governments have tried ever since to address the resulting inappropriate use of benefits. In the early days they seemed happy to turn a blind eye to this deceit as it massaged unemployment levels. Now they want to sort this out by making it harder to obtain the benefit when it is not really needed and furthermore to review it regulalry once it has been granted. I support both of these chnages by the way.

However the understaffed system that they administer this policy by is not up to the task. Local Benefits office staff have been reduced to hit efficiency targets. Voluntary bodies - like CAB and Age Concern Advice Bureaux were trained up instead - I was one of these people who took up some of this slack at no cost to the taxpayer.
I recently asked for a review of my DLA because I felt I no longer needed the care component (basically because I no longer needed daily stoma bags to collect exudate from a post operative infection that I had put up with for 3 years before 4 operations in 6 months sorted this out - apologies for bothering you with the personal history but it is I think releveant)

Now this sort of review is not often asked for. The remaining staff know how to handle requests to raise the benefit but not to reduce it. As a result they failed to respond withing the targetted deadline but eventually agreed with me to remove the care component completely This was not however before they reitterated their previous response which was merely to reduce it from middle rate to lower rate - another example of well meaning and confused actions.

I am all for better control of benefits and the blue badge in particular however as with many apsects of social policy the needy are often be further handicapped by the greedy and as a result some will not wish to pursue rightful claims because of the hurdles that they face.

As a nation we obviously have not got the right balance yet. I think we need first to undo the well meaning but confused and inappropriate use of benefits as a subsitute for reduced employment prospects in the past. Then we can stop the discretionary route to obtaining a blue badge but make it easier for the truly needy to claim provided the system is geared up to proper regular reviews of the level of need.

Anonymous said...

My father has severe dementia - diagnosed when he was 54 and still working full time. I tried to get him DLA for a very long time. He was doubly incontinent, unable to get himself anything to eat/drink, unable to wash or dress himself. He was cared for at home 24 hours a day by my mum with no help from social services or the NHS. I could not get him high rate DLA - he was very physically fit and could walk miles - caring for him was destroying my mother's health. My malingering uncle on the other hand had been granted permanent high rate DLA for a supposed "bad back" but was working on the sly as a cook. After months and months and completing numerous lengthy forms my father was finally granted high rate DLA - but not permanently. Following my enquiry as to why I was told that it was because his condition could change!! I "advised" that he was never going to get *****ing better was he,only worse! After a fight they eventually granted him permanent DLA. My drawback was that i did not know how to work the system. I never applied for a blue badge for hims because he was physically fit, though he was a nightmare to get in and out of the car as he could not understand what i wanted him to do. This was until I got a ticket in a local Northernshire car park when I had taken him for an appointment which lasted a little bit too long. So I thought why not? He now has a blue badge and I still feel guilty using it. I see loads of people who appear physically able parking in disabled places. I know loads of people who are able to work who are claiming disability benefit - being a drug addict also entitles you to it. There are far too many free loaders in this country and unfortunately many of them are elderly and think that the world owes them a living. My father-in- law has all but convinced himself that he fought in the war! - he was born in 1945. I bought him an apt poster "the older I get the better I was!" Being old does not entitle you to be treated better or differently.

Northern Doc said...

We thank you all for your comments and for reading our musings. Prisoner of Hope makes some good points as do the two anonymous posters. Would not like to have been in the Dr Grumble car you can cut the tension there Dr G!

As far as we are aware it is not the current government's position to give into terrorists but Doc Doc seems to have yielded to the terror that is the elderly person in search of a Blue Badge. Can understand why as doctors tend to be nice helping people.

Interestingly had a letter from a local consultant who had been asked to support a patient's Blue Badge form which said he did not feel able to comment on the patient's alleged disability. Polite way of saying 1) I don't believe you and 2)I am not getting involved. Lucky consultant.

Anonymous said...

It is not because one possesses and drives a Mercedes or any other quality vehicle, that they can not be Physically Handicapped! I own and drive a Lamborghini a Maserati and a Range-Rover, all of which are adapted to enable me to drive them. I am Paraplegic (L1) and possess a German equivalent of the British "Blue Badge". In Germany it is not the GP who evaluates the "Handicapped" person but a panel of Specialists. It seems that the UK has really become a nesting place of Parasites and
other vermin.