Saturday, 23 May 2015

One hot Friday afternoon

Having recovered from the tremors of the General Election and having found a replacement for my coffee-drowned laptop, I'm returning to my blogging. I'm not arrogant enough to imagine my pearls have been missed!

It was a somewhat strange afternoon yesterday. I'd been catching up with Question Time, which began with questions about immigration and the National Health Service. The discussion on the latter was about 24/7 doctors. Owen Jones made a fair point about GP training taking seven years and the government taking credit for an increase in their number. A woman in the audience was saying that private care was the solution to that. Then we had to cut it short to go to the MNDA Branch meeting at the Holiday Inn at the infamous Peartree Round on the north edge of Oxford.

As we approached the Oxford ring road, the traffic tailed back and on the ring road it was nose-to-tail stationary. We made the snap decision to drive through the centre of Oxford, which seemed wise, until we reached half a mile from our destination and yet another traffic jam. As a result we arrived a good quarter of an hour after the talk had begun. That means that the comments which follow may not be justified, but this is the impression I received. A private physiotherapist who had previously worked for the NHS was talking about how physiotherapists can help people with Motor Neurone Disease.

I suspect she had asked how many people knew about the Oxfordshire PDPS (People with Disabilities Physiotherapy Service), and I guess there was a sparse response. That may not be surprising: I for one had never heard it called that. But I had been referred to a specialist neurology physio immediately I'd been diagnosed 12 years ago, and all my friends in this area, dead or alive, also have had their physios. And, because it's easier to say, we call them neuro-physios. So I'm personally not so sure how much substance there was to her implication - which is where Jane wheeled me in - that people with MND were not referred to a physio and were poorly served by the PDPS. It's true that the neuro-physios in Oxfordshire are thinly spread and that we might have a wait to see one, but I am pretty sure that the excellent Oxford MND Centre would see to it that the physio service is alerted to the most urgent cases. My level of care from my physio has been above reproach. We must not allow the NHS to become a second-class service or to be regarded as one.

One thing I reacted against was the habit of both the private physios there to refer to patients as "clients". For some reason it seemed utterly impersonal and underlined that private medicine is more in the world of business than of care. There's a widespread preference in the MND community to be referred to as people, people with MND.

On the plus side, there were two carers at the meeting, both, I think, from abroad - part of this undesirable surge of immigration (sic, UKIP). The quality of their care and attention to the people they had brought was lovely to see. One of our friends whom we've known for years looked better and happier than when we first met - which considering she, like me, has a degenerative condition is amazing. Her carer is an EU immigrant, from Poland. She's employed by an agency and no doubt gets paid poorly, too little to attract carers of a similar calibre from this country. I doubt she'd be classed as a skilled worker - but she makes a world of difference to one person with a rather nasty disease.

As we drove home, without let or hindrance on the roads, I reflected how grateful I was for the National Health Service, what a benefit immigration had been to this country and how very careful we should be before we tampered with either. And how holding meetings on a half-term Friday in May might not be such a good idea!


  1. Likewise, a very good friend of ours with advanced cancer is being cared for, full time, by a woman from Eastern Europe. The care that she gives is exemplary. It is loving, skilful and dedicated.

  2. The 95 year old gentleman we have living in one of the flats here, who is a left leg amputee, has an English Carer. She has been with him now for 4 years and if I knew how to nominate her for an MBE I would do so. She goes far beyond the extra mile and her depth of understanding, caring and humour has made this gentleman's life one of fun, courage and challenge. She is quite remarkable, but so also is he.
    His sense of humour in the face of all the trauma he has faced in losing a leg at the age of 91, is a lesson to us all.

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