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Posts tagged ‘Disability’

5 Different Ways to Survive Disability

 

Heather Morgan

Guest Post from Heather

When I was first drafting my “Ways to Survive Disability” I sent a copy to my friend Heather in Canada. We have in fact never met, but know each other through family connections. Instead of amending what I had written Heather, with her different take on life, came up with these words of wisdom. I am honoured that she has allowed me to share them. 

Heather Morgan lives with her husband and teenage children in Canada, where she writes, coaches and looks for joy in the everyday. She has lived with disability in herself and her children her whole life, and recently joined the ranks of wheelchair users everywhere. Heather now blogs at: amoveablemorgan.

1. Find ways to (re)connect. Friends and family are important to everyone, but when disability strikes it can make it difficult sometimes to connect in the ways you are used to. This in turn can lead to feelings of isolation and increase issues with depression. This can be particularly difficult if your disability affects your energy levels, but finding new and creative ways to connect becomes really important at this point, for you and those who care about you. My husband and I have always enjoyed being outdoors and exercising together, but that’s almost impossible for me now on my own steam. However, he found a charity that offers special running strollers for adults with a disability to use in road races. So in May, he and I will be out racing a 10k race together.

2. Be willing to try old things in new ways. For example, I used to love cooking, and now energy is at a premium, so I don’t get to do much cooking anymore. But I’m discovering how much I still enjoy putting salads together for lunch for the family, even if it’s out of a kit from the store. 

3. Find ways to nurture gratitude. There are a lot of new frustrations available for the newly disabled. If you’re anything like me you may have never noticed just how inaccessible the area you live is before now. Not to mention all the things you never had to think twice about doing that are now challenging or even out of the question. But it turns out that cultivating gratitude in the midst of this space can be really helpful for our mental health. I’m back at it again after a brief lapse, and am trying to look for at least three things a day to be grateful for, which I then write down in a journal before I head to bed.

4. Practice being honest. I don’t just mean about whether you ate the last cookie or invited your partner’s family over next Tuesday. I mean practice being honest about yourself – with yourself and others. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been particularly honest with myself about how my body was feeling. Tired? It didn’t matter, I still had things to do. Sore? That wasn’t going to get the dinner cooked. Hungry? Thirsty? I’ll get to that as soon as I can. But now not only is it important that I’m honest with myself about how I’m feeling and what I need, I also have to learn to be honest with those around me. 

5. You are not your disability. When we first get diagnosed with a disability it can rapidly become all we think about, and all we spend our time on. That’s ok for a time, but before too long you’re going to want to remind yourself of who you are. Although “what you did” may or may not be available for you to do anymore, depending on the nature of your disability, “who you are” – your values, your passions – those will always be with you. Finding ways to be “you” on a daily or weekly basis will go a long way to helping you make the transition to your new way of life.

 

5 More Ways to Survive being Disabled

Logos.jpgSome more useful ideas

6 Use or Loose

Use your previous skills to enhance what you can still do. I gave one example in the previous blog post about being organised and thinking ahead. Those were two skills I leant and enhanced throughout a career managing nursing homes and charities. I gained computer skills over 30 years ago and am still learning. I’ve taught others to use social media, basic spreadsheet knowledge and how to manage databases, all from my bed. 

My carers keep everything tidy and my bedroom has all my computer kit and books to hand. People are taken aback at first, but soon understand when I explain that lying in bed reduces my pain levels and enables me to do more.

7 It’s your pain

Only you know what you can and can’t do without being in pain. It’s your pain – no one else knows how bad it is. Pain is telling you something, it’s telling your body to stop. Listen to your body, learn what triggers your pain or muscle spasms. When your body says stop, take notice. 

Please, don’t be bullied by professionals who tell you differently or that you are not trying hard enough. It’s your body – not theirs. I know there is a theory of breaking though a pain barrier – but you are not an elite athlete!  Treat yourself and your body carefully. 

8 Learn who to ignore

Find a way of dealing with the idiots who will ask you stupid questions. For me this is difficult, I have a low idiot tolerance level. I’m also very good at thinking up an answer 5 minutes after I’ve turned away from the idiot in question. I’ve had senior doctors ask why I’m using a wheelchair, judt because they didn’t look at my notes properly. 

I have several different medical conditions which mean I need to use my chair all of the time. When I’m asked what’s wrong with me by a non-medical person, I usually quote the two main reasons, then say, ‘But there’s several others too…….’ the look on the other person’s face usually means I’m kind to them and say nothing more. However I have friends who will respond to that question with ‘………and why have you got such bad dress sense?’ It works for them, I’m not so brave. 

9 Ask for help

One thing that disabled people know lots about is disability. Whether it’s dealing with pain, how understanding how your local Social Services work or getting a good wheelchair. Through years of experience and learning the hard way – we have lots of knowledge and most of us are really happy to share it. It’s the same when choosing a GP or knowing which care agency actually cares. Don’t be afraid to ask. If we know we will tell you and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll probably know someone who will. 

Know the websites to use, Benefits and Work, for everything you need to know about DLA, ESA, PIP and more. Turn to Us, Benefits eligibility checker and great advice on where to get more help. Radar, the best site for finding out your rights.

10 Be an expert

Understand your condition and the effects it has on your body. Understand your medications too and learn about interactions. For some people being part a local group with a national organisation is brilliant. My friend Val who has MS really benefits from going to her local group and being part of the MS Society. You may just want to get a regular newsletter or magazine and know there is a helpline if you need it.

Know your legal rights – if you live in the U.K. – the Equality Act 2010 is the main legislation to understand. If you are in the US it’s the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990. 

If you are able, campaign in some way to change thinking and attitudes. I do and through that I’ve met a great bunch of people and we support each other too.

The Bathroom Saga – Part 2

‘Twas on a Monday Morning……………..

This wonderful Flanders and Swann song seems to sum up everything that happened with actually getting my bathroom works completed!

I agreed with the contractor to have a Monday morning start as the work should only take three days. The bathroom was cleared of storage units, cleaning stuff and the cats litter tray.  I had woken early and although I wasn’t yet dressed, I was respectable enough for the contractors to arrive between 8 & 8.30am. By 9am I was feeling rather cross and phoned their office. I was told that I should have had a phone call on Friday. The Friday call should have explained that there had been a delay on a previous job and the workmen would not get to me till Tuesday. I was not happy. Later that day I was told the men would arrive ‘first thing’ on Wednesday. This was not looking good.

First thing on Wednesday morphed into lunch time. Eventually 2 men finally put in an  appearance. One spoke some English, the other very little. They began by laying a protective cover down over the walk-way into the bathroom. This was great for preventing dirt being traipsed everywhere. The cats however, were not impressed. Their paws stuck to the plastic. They spent the next few days walking around the edges. 

Soon the bathroom floor was ripped up and the preparation work began. Thursday morning started with the new radiator being installed. The cupboards were fixed to the wall. Finally my shower seat was moved and attached at the correct height. For some reason this last task turned out to be quite difficult. The adjustable legs were different lengths and one had to have a couple of inches sawn off. Eventually the seat was low enough for me to sit safely on it. 

The next job was sealing the holes between the floor and the skirting board. Then a special concrete-type underlay could put down. This stuff stank! The smell was very like that disgusting smell you get in male urinals when they have not been cleaned properly. Fresh air spray failed to get rid of the pungent aroma!

I landed up burning a heavily scented candle for several days. 

Whilst the underlay was being smoothed into place the loo had to be removed. Even after the loo was re-fixed we couldn’t use the bathroom until the floor had finished drying. Inconvenient to say the least!

The final task was the measuring of the floor area so that the flooring could be laid on Friday. When the sub-contractor arrived to fix the flooring in place, he told me that the previous days measurements were incorrect. What! How? He didn’t know – not his job!  The flooring he’d brought with him was not just not big enough to fit my bathroom. I was furious. Demanding, through clenched teeth, as to why he couldn’t just get some more that was the correct size? The answer to that was that the supplier was too far away for him to collect it. He was also booked into another job that afternoon. Also he didn’t work on weekends! I told him I expected him back first thing on Monday morning, to which he muttered something about a another booking. 

I tried to calm down before I phoned the main contractors. They did not understand why the subcontractor had left my flat. Thirty minutes later a very apologetic boss was on the phone to me. He was grovelling. He knew his firm had got things badly wrong. He told me there would be no charge for the radiator, which would save me some money. But also informed me that the fitter would not be back until Wednesday morning. I was glad about saving the money, but very annoyed I wouldn’t be having a shower until the following week.

I cannot easily have a stand-up wash, so had to resort to using baby wipes and dry shampoo to feel half decent. I chose not to go out anywhere either as I felt so self-conscious about not being able to have a shower.

I couldn’t wait for Wednesday to come! I was so relieved when the fitter arrived with the correct amount of flooring. Thankfully, the disgusting aroma had almost disappeared. The flooring was laid quickly and well. All I had to do now was wait 24 hours for the sealant to fully dry. 

When Thursday morning came, it was wonderful to be able to have a shower after 8 days without one! Having the warm water cascading over my body was bliss. Having clean hair was such a relief too. I was even able to shower alone, just needing help to get from the shower to my wheelchair. 

The other joy of getting the bathroom done was being able go get rid of the shower curtains I hated so much. I now have beautiful leafy curtains which tone well with the darker flecked flooring, deliberately chosen to reduce the visibility of marks or hair dye. Now that the flooring is correctly laid the shower water drains away quickly, longer leaving the floor like an ice rink. 

I’m so happy and relieved to have a beautiful almost new bathroom, which finally looks good and is safe to use.

 

 

 

5 Ways to Survive Disability

Coming to terms with being disabled is never easy. As a disabled person, it hardest for you, but it can also be hard for family members to recognise the reality of your new life.

I am also aware that some disabled people never seem able accept the life they now have. They just don’t want to make that adjustment. All I can say is, only when you accept your disability will you be able to move forward and decide how you will live your life in the future. This what I have learnt so far:

1 Your life is not over

It is just  going to be different. You have to adjust, but you can and will find a way of living well and of still doing things you enjoy. Be open-minded – you will be surprised how much difference that will make to your future. 

As my partner had just reminded me – having fun is important. Try watching a movie at home with ice cream & popcorn. Why not go to a local cafe where you can taste a new dish? My favourite activity is a trip to an art gallery with a scrumptious tea afterwards. Find something fun to do at least once a month.

2 Beware the Myths

Someone will always tell you of a miracle cure – or say you haven’t prayed hard enough. I do not believe either of those statements. You will have your own religious or spiritual take on such advice. As a child I was taught “God does not give us burdens we cannot carry”. But that isn’t true for everyone either. (For the record I’m Jewish and do believe.) Finding a way to acknowledge the advice of others, without following it is a skill worth learning.  Be firm, to protect yourself.

3 Be Organised

Being disabled requires super organisation – plan ahead and save energy for the things that matter to you. People often marvel at what I manage to do within a day. Part of how I achieve that is by planning ahead and thinking though what I don’t need to do, so I can achieve the things that really matter to me. I use lists and reminders. I use my wheelchair to carry things from one part of my flat to another. I save energy as much as possible. Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down.

Getting dressed is tiring for me – so I never change clothes more than once a day and often not until I’m going out out. If someone thinks I’m lazy, that’s their opinion, I know differently. Putting clothes away and sorting laundry is even more exhausting, so that’s always a job for my carers. Little things can make a big difference.

4 Get some practical help

If you can get a good care package from your local council, go for it! It may take sometime to get everything to settle down, but persevere, it’s worth it in the long run. If that is not an option, a small amount of paid help of some sort will make life easier not just for you – but your family too. You might also be able to rent out a room in exchange for some care services. Explore options, be creative.

5 Having a purpose in life is important

Especially so when you are disabled. I see it as being both therapeutic and necessary. Maybe it’s writing a blog like this one. Maybe it’s sharing a skill. Find something that really matters to you. Even if you have multiple restrictions, by doing just one thing you will have achieved something important for yourself and for others.

I manage a two websites, four Facebook pages and three Twitter feeds, for local groups, all from my bed!! It doesn’t earn me any money, but for me what’s more important is I’m contributing to causes I believe in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bathroom Saga – Part 1

Before the real work can begin………

The old flooring

I moved into my lovely wheelchair adapted flat at the beginning of last year. It is a great flat to live in and I’m happy and settled here. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered very quickly that my bathroom needed new flooring and a proper shower seat. As a temporary measure I bought I stand-alone shower seat. But due to the dip where the shower drains away it was very unstable. I needed a fixed shower seat. The flooring problem should have been equally easy to fix. I knew that would need authorisation from a Occupational Therapist (OT) from my local council. I had already been very unimpressed by the way my transfer of care hours had been handled. When the OT finally visited I was not surprised to discover that she was very unhelpful.

Having been responsible for the re-fitting of bathrooms in several nursing homes, it was obvious to me that the flooring was one that had been discontinued over 10 years ago. The reason being that it didn’t wear well, was difficult to clean and was very slippery when worn. The OT would have known this. Her tactic was to imply that I was making a lot of fuss about needing new flooring. I had ‘managed’ for 2 months so it clearly wasn’t unsafe. This was despite telling her I had slipped and fallen. I also explained I now needed someone with whilst I showered. Another loss of independence. 

Eventually, she reluctantly agreed new flooring and a fixed shower seat were needed. It look another 3 months for her report to get emailed to the housing manager where I live. 

About two months later, a firm of contractors turned up to fit the new seat. The fitter was a qualified OT. Instantly he knew that the seat she had ordered was the wrong one for me! More delay. Another month went by before the new seat was delivered. The day it was due to be fitted I was too ill to get out of bed. So the fitters did measurements from my wheelchair. Somehow, these were wrong. When I first used the seat I quickly discovered my feet did not touch the ground. So it was still too unsafe for me to use! It was also not fully against the wall, meaning my bathroom storage unit no longer fitted under the shower curtains. 

By this point I was too emotionally exhausted to try and get it fixed. But, in the back of my mind, I had a plan. After another 4 months my housing officer finally got round to getting estimates for replacing the flooring. When the chosen contractor spoke to me he agreed to move the shower seat whilst the floor was being done. He is also fitting a new bathroom radiator for me. The current one is too small and the bathroom always feels cold. Two new cupboards will also be fitted to the wall. All for cash in hand! 

I’m so looking forward to getting this work done. 

Part 2 – to follow on completion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A card to prove you’re disabled

Access to venues without the hassle

Have you ever turned up to a theatre or exhibition and discovered you needed documentation to prove you were entitled to a discount?  I certainly have and am sure so have most disabled people. 

Now that problem is solved by Access Card.

This card verifies that you are disabled and in most cases are in receipt of a disability benefit such as DLA or PIP. If you do not get these benefits there is plenty of space to explain your disabilities on the form. It is also possible to download a paper copy of the form and send it in by post.

I’ve just filled out my application on-line and it was relatively easy.  Though I did have some difficulties. There seemed to be no way of moving from one box to the next to input my name and address details. I had to keeping hitting the next button at the bottom of the page which was annoying.

You will need to have a copy of your benefit letter, a copy of some photo ID and a separate photo for use on your card. All of there were easy to upload on the the Access Card site. 

Now I have to wait for my card and I’ll update this post when it arrives and I’ve used it.

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

The Irony of Randomness

This is the week organisations and employers are encouraged to make sure they have structures in place to support staff who may have mental health issues.

It is also a week for some to feel able to talk about their own mental health diagnosis. Another way of marking the week, as many election candidates have done, it to look at ways our NHS should be doing more to prevent young people going into crisis. 

But for me, this week has been one of stress and worry, which could easily be resolved. Under the cruel Tories, I and so many disabled people continue to suffer unnecessarily. I receive DLA and was given an indefinite award 8 years ago. I should not need to be re-assessed. But then the rules changed. Everyone, no matter what their condition, has to be checked up on. This includes people who were born with severe mental and physical disabilities who cannot do anything for themselves. 

Two weeks ago, the dreaded envelope dropped through my letter box. The DWP require me to complete a 24 page form asking asinine questions about my health and what I can and cannot do. This week I have to return it. The irony and randomness of having to so during Mental Health Awareness Week is not lost one me.

Luckily, I’ve recently registered with a new GP and seen a new Consultant so my ‘everything you need to know’ A4 sheet is up to date with diagnoses and medication. I have also got a supporting letter from a Nurse who knows me well. I have warned my GP and consultant they will most likely be contacted.

I have 5 long term conditions, none of which will ever improve. I understand and accept that. But the DWP tick box managers clearly do not. Every 2-3 years they send me another form to complete, with questions on it that bear little relation to my everyday life. Can I lift or move a box? Can I put a pen in a top pocket? Can I touch the top of my head? 

Those of us with arthritic conditions, blood disorders or neurological symptoms, my friends with MS or Parkinson’s, all of us have to  go through this stressful process. It is totally unnecessary. The DWP could, much more cheaply, employ Doctors or specialist Nurses  to paper-check on-going claims. This would ensure those of us who can never return to full health, will retain our allowances. People who may have been debilitated after an injury or by an illness which is curable, would also be assessed and either be transferred to long term benefits or supported back to work.

The same could be true for the many people I know with mental health problems. Some people with a mental health diagnosis will never be stable enough to hold down a job. Forcing then to try and do so is most likely to end up exacerbating their already fragile mental health. 

So this week, I’m merely surviving. I want to thrive and focus on my writing projects, and doing some cyber campaigning for the election. But that’s not possible. I have the Sword of Damocles hanging over me. Will the money I need to live on be cut? Will I keep my car, which is my absolute life line? These are the thoughts that occupy my waking time and stop me sleeping at night. 

What would enable me to thrive? An questionnaire checking up to make sure I have enough support and care hours? That might help ensure I can live something approaching a normal life. The questionnaire could check if I’m socially isolated. Thankfully I’m not, but so many people are. It could also ask if my home is safe to live in, am I free from harassment, and if I can afford to keep warm in winter? 

All of those things would improve my life. Filling out a form to tell someone, with less qualifications than me, the obvious only causes me and all other disabled people stress and distress. 

Maybe next year the focus of the campaign should be to get politicians to understand how to help us thrive and not be burdened with having to just survive. 

 

 

 

 

Why this election is personal

The disability vote and why it matters

The UK is now in the midst of a General Election campaign. I have been a political activist in the UK and US since I was 14, and this time is no different. I’m involved in organisation and campaign strategy. I also manage several social media accounts to support our local candidates. 

I’m doing all of this because I want a change of government.

But for me, this is not just about voting Labour, a party I passionately believe in. A party that has the best policies to give us greater equality. In Jeremy Corbyn we have a leader who seeks a great distribution of wealth, and goverment for the many, not the few. The election is also about what this cruel and heartless government and the two preceding ones have done to disabled people.

Almost 19% of UK citizens have a disability. For most of us, we were either born with the disability, or we have become disabled having worked for many years. Those of us who have congenital conditions often suffered as children. Sometimes through neglect and sometimes through ignorance. Those of us who have acquired disabilities frequently find that even though want to work again, even part-time, that option is not possible. 

I have one friend, A GP who used to work with drug addicts. He has had a stoke, and as a result needs a wheelchair to get around. But his home is not wheelchair accessible, so he is denied a wheelchair. If he had a wheelchair, kept in his car or in a garage, he would be able to work again. But this is now denied him. All his years of training and expertise have gone to waste. He cannot afford to move, as he can’t get a mortgage because he’s not working. 

I have another friend, she has a congenital condition, and experienced a abusive childhood. She has trained as an actor and voice coach. Most of her work opportunities are in London. But she can’t afford to live here. So she struggles to survive on part-time hourly paid jobs with no security. She is also in constant pain and cannot afford ‘time out’ for the surgery she needs.

These storied are replicated all over the UK. I know other people who could work part-time, but cannot get the care support they need to enable to be employable.

So this election is personal for me and for my disabled friends. We are asking to become valued members of society again. It is wrong to view us as scroungers or cheats. We have skills aplenty – but need accessible transport and work environments. We need employers to treat us, and all workers, fairly. Did you know most people who use food banks are actually in work?

We need an NHS, free at the point of delivery that is run for the benefit of patients, not for managers or private companies bidding to run services. We need more nurses, especially in mental health, who are paid properly for the work they do. We want properly funded schools for our children and grandchildren. The money this would take can easily be found if companies and Tory backers no longer have ‘sweetheart tax deals’.

The only way that can happen is if people vote out Theresa May and her cronies.

Disabled people are becoming more involved in this election than ever before. My next post will give the story of what’s happening. 

 

Getting the best from your GP – Part 2

Medication and more

6 Know your meds

Understand what medication you have been prescribed. Know their names and how they work. Also be aware of both the generic (scientific) and proprietary (Pharmaceutical or trade) names.

There are lots of online resources. I find this one the bestYou can also try this NHS site which gives more of an overall view. 

By understanding what your medication does, you are also able to be alert to side effects. But beware – these can sound very scary. Also, not everyone suffers from these side effects and you certainly won’t get all of them. If you are someone who is aware that you may be easily influenced, give the information leaflet to a close friend or family member who can check side effects for you if you are worried.

7 Always report drug side effects

If you are having side effects from your medication, note them down. Use your notes when you go back to see your GP. If you feel you are getting more side effects than benefits from a medication – don’t be afraid to ask if you can try something different.  

The same medication can work differently on different people. Just because someone you know had side effects from a medication doesn’t mean you will too. 

8 Don’t be afraid to say no!

If you really cannot cope with the side effects from a medication, it is your right to say if you no longer want to take that medication. You should always discuss this with your GP first. But ultimately, it’s your body and your choice.

One of the most common drugs prescribed in the UK are statins. They are very cheap, and are given to patients who have raised cholesterol. One million people were prescribed statins in 2011

But thousands of people also suffer side effects from statins. The most common of these side effects are muscle pain and cramps. There is also a risk that statins can increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Statins are often prescribed to reduce a risk of heart attacks caused by high cholesterol. Opinion on statins is divided, even between doctors themselves. 

My own, non-statistical, view talking to friends and family members who have taken statins, is that the side effects some people experience are considerably worse than the risk involved by not taking statins. 

That is my personal choice. If you need to make a decision about statins, or any other medication please discuss your options with your GP first. 

9 Check about supplements 

Many of us now take vitamin and other supplements to improve our health. But did you know they can interact with prescribed medication?

Check out what you are taking or considering buying with your GP. The same advice applies if you are seeing a hospital consultant. Please also tell the doctors or nurses if you are going to have investigations or surgery. 

10 Not all GPs or practices are good

Sometimes things go wrong. Try and resolve you concerns with the GP themselves. If your concern is about one of the reception staff, speak to the practice manager. Your complaint may help them deal with an ongoing issue. 

Where I previously lived in West London, there was an arrangement for my the nearest Chemist to pick up scripts from my GP’s surgery at least once a day. Usually this system worked well. I would order my meds on line and the script would be at the Chemist two days later. The following day I could have my meds delivered. 

However on several occasions prescriptions went missing or couldn’t be found. If I phoned to check what happening there was one particular receptionist who used to get very angry and defensive. On two separate occasions she accused me of lying about what the Chemist had said to me. 

The first time I just thought she was having a bad day. But on the second occasion I spoke to the Practice Manager. It turned out there were some ongoing issues with this particular staff member. Not only was the prescription collection system improved but the incident was used to try and help the Receptionist’s skills training. I stayed with that practice till I moved

Learn about the care other GP practices give disabled people. If you find you have chosen the wrong GP – find a better one. Poor care is not acceptable and you have a right to change your GP.

 

Getting the best from your GP – Part 1

Having great interactions

Finding a good GP is essential if you are to get good support and the right medication. It also matters when you need a hospital referral. Because of my nursing background, I also expect visits to my GP be an equal two-way conversation about medication or treatment.

Most GP’s surgeries allow you to order regular medication and book appointments on line. It’s well worth learning how to do this – it really isn’t difficult. Booking non-urgent appointments and ordering medication from home saves time and energy too.

I use the Health app in my iPhone to store all my medical informations. There are similar ones for other phones and they can be accessed even if your phone is locked. If you don’t trust technology make sure you have information available in case of emergency. Some people use Message in a Bottle.

If you have life-threatening conditions or allergies you may want to consider MedicAlert. They do charge a yearly fee, but provide a great service.

1 Do your research

Ask friends and neighbours, especially those with health problems.  If you need a GP who speaks your language, make sure that there are at least two GPs in the practice you choose that you can talk to. The same rule applies if you prefer to always see a woman GP. 

Check the Surgery out on line: the CQC is an indepedent inspection body who rate all GP practices on a variety of standards 

There is a totally independent site. It’s a great place to check. Their reviews are straightforward and give clear percentages for each question.

This NHS run site allows patients to give their own ratings on different services. I don’t find it as helpful as it tends to cite only the best or worse experiences.

2 Don’t think the nearest GP is best

Never chose a Surgery because it’s the nearest one to get to. I have to pass two GP practices to get to see my GP and it’s well worth the extra time. 

My friend Sue who lives the other end of London to me, chose her GP because he was nearby. Sue has type 2 diabetes and in the last 3 months has had 3 leg infections with blisters on her skin. Her GP wouldn’t send her to specialist Diabetic Nurse. He refused to give her a glucose monitoring kit. She was told she couldn’t see a specialist Tissue Viability Nurse about her dressings. She was also told to pay for the wound dressings.

The way she was treated not only broke NHS guidelines, but could have severely endangered her health. Because the NHS is short of money, Sue presumed that what she was being told was ok. She felt she didn’t ‘deserve’ any more care because it was too expensive. I was furious when I heard about this.

I spoke to Sue and explained the care she should be getting. She is now with a better GP. Although the surgery is a 10 minute bus ride away, Sue is getting referred to the right specialists and she will get the right care.

3 Speak to a GP before signing up

If at all possible, ask to speak with one of the GPs at the practice you are considering. This is especially important if you have a rare condition or multiple interacting conditions. You can often get an idea of they way you will be treated in future by the response you get to your request.

Also GPs who are training practices are often more up to date on new treatments and complex conditions. 

4 Find more than one good GP

Most GPs work in group practice settings. So whilst you maybe registered with a specific GP you can be seen by any GP who works there. You will probably easily find one GP who you have a great rapport with. But, GPs have holidays, are sick themselves or they go on training courses. So find at least one more GP in your practice who will know you and can look after you if you need something urgent when your GP is away. 

5 The power of paper

When seeing a new GP or hospital doctor for the first time I always take with me a concise medical history of the 12 operations I’ve had as an adult, my current medication and the allergies I have. This paper also lists the 8 conditions I’ve been diagnosed with and a summary of my current issues. This makes consultations much more focussed and doesn’t waste valuable time going over irrelevant stuff. It also means the Doctor has everything in front of them if they need to write referral letters or evidence letters for Social Services and the DWP.

Part 2 coming soon.

 

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