No – this isn’t about the A&E – I wish they said yes to that too. No – this is my visit to the Whittington with members of the Haringey Phoenix Group who work with blind and visually impaired people in Haringey.
Have you ever thought about this – you get the results to your tests for cancer – and because it is in print – you can’t read it and have to ask a neighbour to help. Can you imagine how dreadful it must be to have to bring someone else into what is a private matter. Of course – you may be lucky and have a partner or friend who you are happy to see your most intimate correspondence – but there are times when this just isn’t appropriate. Or the letter might be about an appointment – and you don’t get to see it or know about it until too late. And quite frankly – it should be a basic right in a civilised society to receive medical information in a form that is accessible to those who are blind or visually impaired.
Well – actually it is a right – in legislation! The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Duty of 2006 say this should be the case – but the actuality just isn’t happening. Partly this is because patients don’t ask – and partly because hospitals and GPs don’t offer or aren’t set up to deliver.
Hence my visit with the wonderful Haringey Phoenix Group. We met with Kate Slemeck and two other Whittington officials to discuss how we could arrive at a situation where asking wasn’t necessary because the IT system flagged up both that the patient was visually impaired but also what type of communication results, appointments – any communication – should be in. This could be anything from braille, to large print format (different point sizes for different degrees of impairment), audio tapes, etc. Then automatically – all communication would be in that format. This is part of a campaign by the RNIB to convert the right in law – to the reality on the ground.
Three cheers for the Whittington – who embraced this and said they could see no reason why not – and were prepared to run a pilot. This would be a real breakthrough and the Whittington would be the first hospital to trial and hopefully become a beacon for provision of communication in appropriate format.
Of course – there’s a bit of a way to go – but they were welcoming, said that their IT system could flag this information up as we suggested. The next stage is to get GPs to ensure that this information – that the patient is visually impaired and identify the format required – so that it can be put onto the hospital system. And of course – it needs to be on the GP system – and all blind and visually impaired people need to make sure that the GP does this and so on.
So next step is to get Haringey PCT to write to all the GPs locally asking them to make sure that both on their own system and when they refere patients to the Whittington – it is made clear that this information has to be entered for flagging and so on.
I am assuming that the PCT will be delighted and willing to do so. I cannot imagine any reason why not – and this is the sort of small change that will make a huge difference.
Three cheers for the Whittington!
Well done! But how sad it is that people never think of these things until there is pressure.
In the 1960’s, my father (who was blind and had a guide dog) was refused a bus journey because the conductor was afraid of dogs.
Naturally, he refused to get off the bus and it was all over the national papers the next day.
That started the debate over the acceptance of guide dogs in public places and with him being PR Officer for St Dunstan’s, managed to lobby and get the issue out in the public domain.
It seems that today we have to still fight for rights.
What a fascinating history. Yes – it shouldn’t have to be so hard to get basic rights actually practised – but sadly it still is.