This morning I had the privilege of speaking to the Board of the London Ambulance Service (LAS) about Tourettes, my experiences of their service, and the NHS in general. The Board governs the whole of the LAS and it’s made up of very experienced people from within the NHS and other large organisations.
This talk came about thanks to the interest and thoughtfulness of a whole series of people. This is what happened:
• A paramedic called Tim heard my interview on Woman’s Hour last year and was intrigued
• Tim came to our Welcome to Biscuit Land Launch Party, ate some biscuits, had his photo taken with a giant cheese, and bought my book
• Tim enjoyed the book and shared it with his colleague Richard who read it too
• Richard got in touch to tell me about the crucial role biscuits can play in healthcare. He went on to write an amazing guest blog post about it
• Richard asked if I’d be up for coming to talk to the ambulance service about my experiences and I said yes
• Richard suggested it to one of his senior colleagues who approved it, and arranged for me to speak at today’s meeting
I found preparing the talk more nerve-wracking than actually giving it. It was very important to me that I got it right and didn’t miss out anything important. I wanted the board to know that:
• My experience of the LAS has been extremely positive
• Although the challenges in the last two years from my ‘ticcing fits’ and my reduced mobility have been tough, they would’ve been unimaginably harder to cope with if I hadn’t had the reassurance of knowing that the LAS was always there in times of crisis
• Good communication and humour can make a very positive difference when you’re frightened and in pain
• Not making assumptions about what someone is able or not able to understand or do is really important
• I’ve had tireless skilled care from the NHS, both in the way they deal with crises, and in the way they provide me with the continuous support I need to stay healthy, happy and independent
• Cuts in social support or preventative health services for disabled people are likely to lead to increasing demands on the LAS
• I’m deeply concerned about whether the services that have been so vital to me will be around to help me and others in a similar situation in the future
I enjoyed speaking to the Board. They asked interesting questions and told me about some of the initiatives they’d undertaken to improve the support they give to disabled people using LAS.
One of these is a pocket-sized, visual communication book designed to help people who’re non-verbal or don’t speak English to communicate with a paramedic. The book is very well laid out and has been issued to every member of the service. It’s also been ordered by ambulance services in some other parts of the country.
I’m really pleased the LAS have developed a non-verbal communication system. Good resources like this can make a big difference during a crisis and I’m sure the book helps save time, distress and lives. If I’d known about it in advance I’d have given my entire talk using signs and symbols!