NHS Somerset Equality Forum

My wife, Jan was invited to attend this meeting, which was held in Yeovil on 25 Sept. The focus of the meeting was improving access to healthcare services and sharing concerns and complaints. Also time was allowed for people to air other concerns outside of these topics but that were related to being treated differently (or feeling as if you are being treated differently) because of race, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender or faith.

We Don’t usually get involved in this sort of thing but decided to go along on this occasion as we thought it might give us the opportunity to air our concerns about the lack of help She received when I was in hospital for a few days last year.

It was quite a small gathering of invited people and we sat round two separate tables – our table consisted of five guests, plus Natalie from the Compass Disability Services. Pleased to say we had plenty of opportunities to express our concerns about what happened. We weren’t entirely sure if this was a relevant subject for this particular Forum but Natalie assured us that it was and took copious notes.

One of the other topics we discussed as a group was mixed wards and the fact that, in certain circumstances (Medical Assessment Unit in my case), they are still being used in hospitals. We commented that, as a wheelchair user, she found the lack of privacy even more difficult and have refused to stay when asked to occupy a bed which is next to a male patient…no offence to all the lads. [We have very strong feelings about this and don’t think anyone should have to share a mixed ward, no matter what the circumstances.]

Everyone’s issues/concerns/experiences WILL be reported back to NHS Somerset and those attending Forums will be sent an extract of the Equality and Diversity Annual Report 2008/09 that Compass Disability Services will put together at the end of the current consultation period. Also a full copy of the report will be available to those wishing to see it.

Something we learnt about at the Forum is PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service web]www.pals.nhs.uk[/url]) which could be described as the ‘Customer Service Point of your local NHS’. It is a free, confidential service offering advice and support. By contacting PALS you can make a comment; raise a concern; give a compliment; or make a complaint about health services that you’ve received. PALS, in turn, can provide information about NHS Services; help sort out problems on your behalf; assist you in making a complaint; and help you get support from other local or national agencies. Of course, you can still make your comments or raise your concerns or complaint directly with the service that provided the treatment such as a hospital, GP or dentist.