NHS healthcare must be more accessible for blind people like me
Julie is blind with a mild hearing impairment. She has a number of health issues including heart failure and problems with her kidneys and lungs. Here, she tells us about her experiences of receiving healthcare from the NHS as a blind person.
I’m usually able to attend health appointments and communicate with staff with the help of a Sense support worker.
Some specialists talk across me, to the support worker rather than me. And I won’t have that. I’ll stop that conversation straight away and get them to talk to me direct.
Doctors are sometimes quite condescending. Yes, I’m blind, but they act like I’m stupid as well.
During longer stays in hospital without my support worker, I’ve been disappointed in the level of blind awareness of medical staff.
I’ve had situations where they’ve put food down and not told me it’s there. Cups of tea have been put down and I’m not aware they’re there. Staff are just not blind aware.
On the days I felt well enough, I gave the nursing staff some basic training concepts on how to treat blind people. The staff were so grateful for that. They said that they’d asked management for that kind of training in the past, but management weren’t listening to them.
But the biggest issue I have is with the information they send. I get letters from the NHS about hospital appointments and results that are not accessible to me.
I’ve been in touch with the hospital and asked if this information could be emailed to me, or they could read it over the phone to me. They say they can’t because of patient confidentiality.
That makes me laugh, because my patient confidentiality is compromised anyway because I have to get someone to help me read it.
I’d like to be more regularly asked about my communication needs. Nobody’s ever asked me.
The only time I’ve ever been asked is when I went for a breast screening appointment and they said they could send the results to me in braille. And then they did! That was fantastic.
I think it doesn’t even come up in the conversation because they just assume you’ve got someone to read letters to you. It’s just not discussed at all, which it should be.
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