"It's easier if you go backwards"

 
 
A recent hospital out patient visit with my 88 year old mother in law raised questions about my driving skills and the design of the new hospital wheel chairs. It also made me question whether the hospital wheel chair is a metaphor for modern health and social care,  not intended to be used this way, evidence of the influence of the private sector mor efficient but not taking into account the patient / service use experience. 
Blair 
 
 
"It's easier if you go backwards"
 
The hospital provided "pink"wheel chair was extra large, solid, heavy, with small chunky wheels that made it difficult to steer. The chairs were parked together under a shelter at the main entrance to hospital like shopping trollies out side a supermarket. Like supermarket trollies you needed a to put a pound coin in the slot to release one. 

Hospital corridors are long ,wide and very straight like American highways and these wheel chairs like American cars were built for going long distances in straight lines. Like those oversized automobiles these chairs do not corner well. Maintaining lane discipline is important because the vehicles are too big and clumsy to weave in and out of traffic. Novices like me make them selves know by their difficulty in controlling the chairs , a tendency,despite the wide corridors,to veer towards the walls and the need for several attempts at getting round a corner.  
 
Like all learner drivers we are subject to helpful advice. In this case the advice was remarkably  consistent. " It's easier if you go backwards". Judging from the passing traffic chairs go faster, are more responsive and can take tight corners if they are pulled backwards rather than pushed forward. 
 
I can't believe they were designed to be driven like this but they certainly go better this way. Unfortunately this means the passenger can not see where they are going which can be very disconcerting and disorientating. Despite the frequently offered advice,the example of other drivers, the greater speed and improved handling I refused to drag my mother in law backwards. Slower and less efficient we may be but my passenger appreciated the difference. 
Is this a metaphor for health and social care?
 
Blair McPherson  former director of community services  www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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