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Patients ‘let down by GPs who don’t listen’

Warning over hurdles caused by tech revolution

26 April, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Brendan Leahy: ‘Phoning the doctor is hard’

PATIENTS with learning difficulties who receive raw treatment at hospitals and doctors’ surgeries are left feeling they have not been believed or confused by NHS jargon, the Town Hall has been warned.

Brendan Leahy, from Camden Disability Action group, said people suffering from illnesses were less likely to seek help due to the hurdles they felt they faced.

Statistics showed people with learning difficulties were three times more likely to die from conditions that could be treated with good healthcare than the rest of the population, he added, while warning that the race to swap human interaction with machines and online services created another challenge.

“We still come across a lot of people with a learning difficulty who tell us it’s very difficult even to access their local GP or hospital,” he said. “We are still hearing that experiences like phoning the doctor or hospital is very hard. Because of automated systems, online booking is difficult, especially with the digital exclusion that many people with learning difficulties face.”

He called for better training for medical staff and surgery receptionists when he spoke at a debate on health inequality at a full council meeting earlier this month.

“If we complain about the treatment we get from a hospital or doctor we are never really taken seriously,” he added. “They don’t always investigate it properly. The doctors and hospital seem to take forever to understand what might be wrong with us so don’t do the right tests. They think we make things up or simply don’t listen to us properly, by giving us the right amount of time. They blame our learning difficulties instead of trying to understand what is really happening to us. There are many more challenges.”

Mr Leahy told councillors: “We are less likely to go to the doctor or hospital, so we only go when we absolutely need to, and then our illness can be so bad that it can be too late to get better. We strongly believe that doctors, nurses and receptionists must get training about people with a learning disability from people with a learning disability.”

Meanwhile, Somers Town-based Africa Health Forum, which helps people from minority groups, appeared at the meeting with a warning that some residents were not accessing the care they needed.

Chikwaba Oduka said: “People sometimes call us in crisis and don’t want to go to A&E. People have a concern that such a service will not be culturally sensitive, for example in considering religious values or language needs.”

Chikwaba Oduka

She warned that there was a risk of isolation and that some people from minority backgrounds struggled to build relationships with doctors. Camden is probing inequalities in the way people access healthcare across the borough.

The New Journal has already reported on how concerns have been raised about fatty food choices, with warnings that healthier choices were too expensive for those on lower incomes.

Labour social services chief Councillor Pat Callaghan offered to meet the speakers.

She said she would look at how some communities needed “culturally sensitive” services, comparing the issues faced by some minority residents to the experience “years and years ago” of Irish émigrés who came to Camden.

“I think it’s something I definitely haven’t explor­ed enough,” she added.

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