One way or another I’ve had quite a few medical appointments recently. Some have been OK, but some have been frustrating.
As someone whose body is noticeably different from what health care professionals are trained to expect, I’m aware that unthinking assumptions can often be made about my life and my needs.
Sometimes what the person sitting in front of me assumes must be a big problem isn’t an issue at all. I often find it hard to advocate for myself in these situations and to make sure I’m heard. However good I am at speaking up for others, when it comes to my own health I often struggle.
Today, though, I had an appointment that I can only describe as brilliant!
I left feeling positive, hopeful and listened to. This shouldn’t really be blog-worthy, but today’s appointment with my consultant physiotherapist stood out. Her empathy, pragmatism and care made a big difference at a time when the constant pain I’ve been having in my hips and back has been taking its toll.
This appointment reminded me of one many years ago when my mobility started deteriorating. It was with a physio who recognised for the first time that I needed support and connected me with other services.
I care passionately about the NHS and deeply value the range of the services it provides, and the skill and dedication of the people who work in it.
But I also acknowledge that when it comes to disability, medical professionals can be quick to draw conclusions. “She obviously doesn’t work” “But she can’t live independently” and “What day centre does she go to?” are all things that have been said about me in clinical settings.
I also sometimes feel there’s an assumption that just because I’m a wheelchair user and have a particular condition, it means that pain, depression and poor health are inevitably parts of my life. I don’t think they need to be.
Assumptions like these are damaging because they have the potential to get in the way of someone getting the right care.
We must all do everything we can to protect the NHS, to ensure that the staff have the time and resources they need to do their jobs, and the training to resist stereotypes and ensure equality of care.