Getting the wheelchair you need

After several hours of angst at Friday surgery – it is pretty draining sometimes – I go off to the Bernie Grant Centre to give a speech on Primary Health Care in the borough. This event is hosted by Camidoc – who are the current providers of Out of Hours Service (OOHS) in ours and three other boroughs.

Their contract has just been extended to September ’09 – but this service will be up for tender at that point. My fear is that Haringey Primary Care Trust will use a private provider – perhaps some big company – that has no local base and no local experience. I can’t endorse any provider myself – obviously – but I will say that I have used Camidoc extensively (given my children seemingly only ever tell me they are ill as the doctor’s surgery closes on a Friday night!) and found their service very, very good and very professional.

Anyway – most of my speech was about the proposed polyclinic scheme and how we, the human beings, want our local GP to remain our local GP. The clinics may be super duper – so long as they provide extra services and in consultation (real consultation) with us provide what we want in accessible form.

Then on to see a lady whose daughter was perfectly normal until the age of 13. She loves music, films, drama, clothes, shopping and spending her parents’ money (so her mother told me). She was bright, did very well at school and was very active at sport. She then developed Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, a rare neurological condition which presents as intractable seizures, and loss of function on the affected side. She had a hemispherecomy operation in April ’06 which left her paralysed on her left side with significant cognitive and visual difficulties. She is gradually regaining some mobility but will never recover the use of her left arm and hand, her fully cognitive functions or visual field.

Anyway – the point of my visit was to highlight the appalling provision of wheelchairs. You can have the basic model – which means you have to be pushed by someone else – but you can’t have a powered chair unless you fit very, very strict criteria. The daughter has already lost a lot of confidence. Being able to move yourself is all the difference in the world in terms of independence. Otherwise you kind of become someone who waits – waits for someone to push you. You have no power over your own life. No independence. I think this is vital. As if it’s not bad enough to have a disability which means you need a wheelchair for all or some of the time.

(There have also been some health and safety arguments wheeled out as to why a powered chair won’t suit in this case, but they don’t stand up to close scrutiny.)

We shouldn’t have a health care system that says you have this basic chair which will condemn you to always need someone around to push you – will give you no independence – and which is cheap (basically).