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A Hill to Die On by Val Waldron

“The political and media exploitation of an under-resourced NHS and the scapegoating of our Health Secretary for political gain undermines the real need for cross party work towards progress. Let’s hope that the newly formed Long-Covid Inquiry group is well intentioned. We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball when it concerns the overall health and general well-being of our population.”

I 100% support the right of NHS workers to strike and deplore the conditions that have created the need for industrial action, including Brexit and years of Tory government. Saving the NHS is a hill to die on, but not necessarily a comfortable death. The NHS, like the EU, must and could be reformed and modernised, worthy of a nation on a trajectory towards independence.

Let’s go back to my old nemesis for a minute, BBC Radio Scotland news output. Listeners with any leaning towards independence need no reminder that a concoction of lazy journalism and poor editing can give more than an impression of bias towards the Union. It would seem that they also have a pool of spokespeople on speed dial who will readily place the Scottish government at the centre of their concerns, whether justified or not. Today’s Call-in on the announcement of an MSP inquiry into Long-covid struck a different chord.

The legacy of Covid infection remains largely an unknown, unfinished story in this chapter of our lives and hopefully the fact that Covid touched all of us in some way will contribute towards a serious effort to understand and treat ‘Long Covid’. If we are to move forwards as a healthy, progressive nation, we need to address some long-standing cultural issues within the NHS that have endured beyond government changes over the decades.

Resources and adequate research are clearly present limitations for those, presumably the vast majority of health care providers, intent on offering the best patient care possible. Sadly, much of the experience of those presenting with a distressing set of symptoms in today’s call-in programme echoes the same frustration of those over the years with conditions such as ME and Lyme Disease who have been forced to engage in the utterly exhausting fight to be treated or even heard. Symptoms can be too easily dismissed as imagined or extracted as separate from the whole picture. This can result in a hesitance or reluctance to make appropriate referrals or a channelling down a completely inappropriate path.

Today’s figure gives 187,000 Long Covid sufferers in Scotland. How many more have been dismissed or rerouted because of a cultural denial that our organs and systems operate as a unit, that we present as the whole person, that even if you do not (yet) know how to treat us, we want to be heard and offered every opportunity for referral. In other words, we cannot wait until our ‘syndrome’ is fully researched and recognised. Currently it takes several years on average to diagnose Endometriosis, for instance. It’s not just a bad period. Yes, waiting lists for specialist investigation are long, but we’d rather be on them than not.

Front-line workers are exhausted and probably do not have the power invested in them by the public and the various pressure groups and political parties who would scapegoat them for their own agenda. Furthermore service users cannot possibly understand the systems and available resources nor the limitations of science and technology when it comes to investigations. It can’t end there though, for those of us who have been forced to accept ‘reassurance’ instead of referral and remained powerless as our condition becomes chronic.

The lived experience for many of us is that the NHS in 2023 is still patriarchal at its core, with a general lack of acceptance that  most of us in the 21st century have a strong identification with our own needs. If this feels like treachery  and you are one of the satisfied customers who collected your free prescription and look forward to improved health, I hope that you are in the majority, but consider the changes still required in areas that need to be de-medicalised, while offering a full range of treatment where required, and the fightback needed against those who would hinder progress.

The outrage around Gender Reform and self ID in general illustrate a reluctance by an extremely vocal minority, who believe themselves to be a majority, to accept change that will benefit and empower others. Consider also the tide of dangerous far-right interference that attempts to threatens women’s right to abortion. We cannot let these voices influence our health care provision.

The cost-of-living crisis created by the greedy and powerful creates a stalemate situation when it comes to actual progress. The workers must be paid and the service resourced properly as a priority. The political and media exploitation of an under-resourced NHS and the scapegoating of our Health Secretary for political gain undermines the real need for cross party work towards progress. Let’s hope that the newly formed Long-Covid Inquiry group is well intentioned. We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball when it concerns the overall health and general well-being of our population.

Val Waldron

 

 

 

 

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