LOCAL AMBASSADORS: It’s not you, it’s the system – navigating the NHS

Words by Jo Bull

My name is Jo, and I dare to exist while disabled. I am under the mental health team and I’m diabetic. I have experience on both sides of the desk in public services.

I don’t think it’s news to anyone that the NHS system is broken. Even before Covid-19 there have been areas of lack in terms of understanding and awareness with chronic illness, sensory issues, trauma informed practice, and hidden disability.

I write this because I need reminding of the following on a daily basis when I am ill. Because the system conditions us to feel like we are a burden, we are often left to manage our own illness – or treated as if we know nothing about our own brains and bodies after a lifetime of living and working within them.

And we can frequently experience unsafe treatment, in terms of both attitude and medication when practitioners are making assumptions or not paying attention.

The system is now so fragmented, overloaded, and traumatised, half the workers within the NHS are in states of fight or flight – and as no one has supported them to self-care, patients and service users often bear the brunt of that.

Sometimes they literally do not have enough bodies to do their job. Sometimes they are not feeling safe and grounded enough in their own selves to listen, absorb information, or keep us safe.

Two overloaded traumatised people meeting in these circumstances often don’t do well together. This is dangerous and distressing for people without complex needs, and even harder for those of us who do not fit the norm. If the system no longer works for the typical and abled it is now a massive hurdle for those of us who aren’t.

We need to pause, breathe, and meet each other – medic and patient – as two humans navigating impossible waters together. We need to have empathy for each other, without compromising needs or safeguarding, and without blaming, shaming, or being dismissive. Negotiating and navigating together, as a team.

As service users, we can tell ourselves the following things: they may not be able to meet our needs, they may not have empathy for us, they may not understand. This is not within our control. However, we do not have to accept or absorb arrogance, ignorance, abuse, or stigma.

We are not to blame for the gaps or lack within the system we keep falling through. The system’s lack is not the user’s fault; we do not need to hate ourselves. We are not a burden.

What we can have control over is how we view ourselves, and learning more about ourselves so we can continue to identify and ask for what we need.

Jo is part of the LOCAL AMBASADORS project, using community journalism to give local people a louder voice – including adults living with disabilities. For more stories from our LOCAL AMBASSADORS visit www.erdingtonlocal.com/category/la-news-features

If you would like to know more about the LOCAL AMBASSADORS project and join the team for free, fun, and friendly workshops on journalism and creative writing then email la@erdingtonlocal.com

LA FEATURE: Compassionate Communities – living through bereavement with Compass Support

Words by Estelle Murphy / Project pics supplied by Compass Support

Few things in life are definite. But we will be born, we will face changes, and at the end we will pass away. Before birth parents have had nine months to prepare, and as we grow life teaches us how to live with change, but what prepares us for death?

Whilst death is a subject many still find hard to talk about, Birmingham has been recognised as the UK’s first ‘Compassionate City’ – awarded the accolade by Compassionate Communities UK in acknowledgement of how organisations across the city work collaboratively ‘to provide support, space, togetherness and understanding for those undergoing the experiences of death, dying, loss and caregiving.’

Building on those friendships and foundations, Castle Vale based Compass Support are launching their Compassionate Communities project this May – teaching people practical and emotional skills to help them support those facing bereavement in their own community.

Compassionate Communities will be delivered through a series of free workshops and awareness sessions, helping to educate people about dealing with bereavement and to ensure more in our community know where to go for help, advice, and support when someone is passing away.

The project will work with local groups and individuals to help break down the walls surrounding death, so people can talk more openly and constructively about dying.

LOCAL AMBASSADORS spoke to Isobel Hayward, Health and Wellbeing Project Organiser from Compass Support.

She explained: “The (Compassionate Communities) scheme was bought to us through Birmingham City Council, as facilitators of compassion, to bring it to anyone in the community that works with people.

“We run workshops on how to approach death and end of life, and going forward people will know who to call for help with bereavement, end of life, and financial support.

“Our awareness sessions on end of life are completely free and open to community groups and individuals.”

LOCAL AMBASSADORS further asked Isobel why she thought this scheme is so needed: “I think it’s because when you are dealing with loss and death, you are consumed by what’s going to happen and your grief.

“Easing that with the knowledge of who to call and what to do, or who can offer support for families is important. It’s about tailoring the process for individual needs.”

As the those who work in palliative and end of life care know all too well, there is no handbook for the general public on what to do and where to go when someone is dying, and often these families are left isolated, grieving and alone.

Any scheme giving people more help, support, and knowledge around dealing with bereavement will ultimately help people spend their last few days or weeks with their loved ones, instead of chasing information and adding more worry to an already stressful and heart-breaking time.

The more people who can offer support the better, and it’s never too early to have the knowledge you need to support yourself, loved ones, or friends. Who will be there with compassion, when you need them, at the end?

To find out more about the Compassionate Communities project being delivered through Compass  Support please email: contactus@compass-support.org.uk 

**For free community journalism and creative writing workshops, come and join our LOCAL AMBASSADORS team – click on the link below and email us for more information**

OPINION: A message from Paulette Hamilton, MP for Erdington

Pics supplied by Paulette Hamilton MP

A year ago, I was proud to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Erdington. Our community made history as I became Birmingham’s first ever Black MP.

Since I was elected, I’ve helped more than 1,500 local people with casework, championed our community in Parliament, and become a strong voice raising the issues affecting people in Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale.

During the same period, the Government crashed our economy leaving millions of people facing financial uncertainty as families struggle to keep up with soaring bills and mortgages. 13 years of Tory governments have left our economy weak, and after more than a decade of cuts to the public sector, our vital services are a shadow of what they were under the last Labour government.

As a former nurse of 25 years, it breaks my heart to see our NHS on its knees. Nurses’ pay is struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation levels forcing many hospitals to set up foodbanks specifically for their staff. I’ve met nurses at my advice surgeries who simply do not have enough money to eat.

It’s astonishing that for the first time in 106 years, nurses went on strike after the Government refused to talk to them. Ministers were lining up to clap for our NHS staff during the pandemic but are now failing to give them a decent pay rise.

The Government’s delay getting around the negotiating table with the nurses’ unions has resulted in 140,000 cancelled NHS appointments, and patients are paying the price.

Local people are constantly telling me that they can’t get a GP appointment. Every morning at 8am, thousands of people call their local GP surgery to get an appointment but aren’t successful.

One constituent told me that she called her local practice and was fifth in the queue but by the time she got to the front, there were no appointments left. She told me ‘If you ring at 8:01am you’ll be on the phone for 40 minutes and you won’t get an appointment because they’ve all already gone’. Stories like these are sadly not unique.

After 13 years of Tory failure, our NHS is broken, working families are poorer and our economy is in decline.

The Tories are out of ideas, and their ‘sticking plaster’ approach no longer works but I’ll continue to stand up for Erdington, Kingstanding and Castle Vale to ensure that local people’s voices are heard in Parliament.

For more on Paulette Hamilton MP for Erdington visit www.paulettehamilton.org

NEWS: Erdington healthcare expanded with Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre

Ed’s note… Please contact NHS 111 (it’s free to call) before attending Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre, as walk-in patients cannot been seen.

Words and pics by Ed King

The new Erdingon Urgent Treatment Centre at Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (EUTC) is now open and operational, boosting much needed healthcare across the Erdington constituency.

Established to replace the Health & Wellbeing Walk-In-Centre, that operated from a shopfront site on Erdington High Street, the EUTC can see up to 100 patients per day – taking over previously unused space at the Stockland Green Primary Care Centre (SGPCC).

Despite being a well-loved and well-used facility, the previously high street based practice was not without its challenges – such as opening hours , parking, and proximity to busy licensed premises. The site was further dogged by the constant threat of closure, once in 2013 then again in 2020.

Following several campaigns to save the facility, the Walk-in-Centre finally closed it’s doors during the coronavirus crisis – but with assurances from Birmingham healthcare bosses that such a facility would remain ‘at the heart’ of the community, as called for in an open letter by MP for Erdington Jack Dromey.

The new Stockland Green Primary Care Centre based EUTC will be operational 12hrs a day, seven days a week – with a significant capacity for parking and emergency vehicles, allowing drivers to get right to the front door in desperate situations.

Next to several major bus routes, the EUTC will also offer easier access for patients using public transport from Erdington wards such as Stockland Green, Perry Common, Kingstanding, and Short Heath.

Further facilities on hand at the EUTC are three GP services, a pharmacy, and ‘a range of NHS community services.’

The NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (BSCCG), who manage the city’s NHS healthcare provisions, are hoping that many of the issues surrounding the old high street centre will be solved with the new facility.

Paul Jennings, Chief Executive of NHS BSCCG, said: “We welcome the opening of the relocated Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre; which will provide crucial urgent care services to local people.

We are committed to ensuring there is suitable local healthcare provision across Birmingham and Solihull, which meets the needs of our diverse communities.”

Erdington’s Member of Parliament, Jack Dromey, is also hopeful that the new UTC will bring widespread benefits across the constituency.

Speaking to Erdington Local about the EUTC , Jack Dromey MP said: “I am delighted that the Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre has opened and is already providing a first-class service to the people of Erdington.”

The Erdington Walk-In Centre saved countless lives, and when it closed temporarily due to COVID, many constituents contacted me with concerns over the future of our local healthcare provision. Back in August, I sought reassurances from the Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group that Erdington would retain such a service, and I am pleased they have delivered on that promise.” 

The new site not only offers improved medical facilities, but the increased accessibility will hopefully mean many more Erdington residents will now access this invaluable local service.” 

It is important for those who wish to use the service to remember to call 111 in the first instance to be referred for an appointment. The threat of COVID-19 is still very real, and we should not risk the health of others by turning up at the new Urgent Treatment Centre without an appointment.”

Local residents looking to access the EUTC, during the coronavirus crisis, have been asked to initially contact NHS 111 – to make sure everyone at the new facility can be met with COVID-19 safe environment.

For more details on how to access the Urgent Treatment Centre, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk/your-health

For more information on NHS 11 online, visit www.111.nhs.uk

For more from Jack Dromey MP, or for contact details to his constituency office, visit www.jackdromey.org

For more on the NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk

NEWS: Erdington guaranteed an ‘urgent care service’, following push from Jack Dromey MP to keep vital healthcare ‘at the heart of Erdington.’

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington families have been guaranteed an ‘urgent care service’ will remain open and operational, despite widespread closures of public amenities due to the coronavirus crisis.

In an open letter to Paul Jennings, the Chief Executive of NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), MP for Erdington Jack Dromey pushed for ‘reassurance over the future of these vital local services’ – following a ‘steady stream’ of concerns from across the constituency about the future of the Erdington Walk In Centre.

Responding swiftly to the MP’s letter, which was dated 18th August, Mr Jennings gave written assurance that the NHS ‘are now in a position to reopen an urgent care service in Erdington, in the very near future.’

In his letter, Jack Dromey MP further underlined the importance that such a service ‘will remain at the heart of Erdington.’

And whilst the location of the facility, which will be called Erdington Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), has not been confirmed by the NHS, they were able to the commit ‘it will be open seven days per week, 12 hours a day’ – mirroring the accessibility of the High Street situated Walk-In-Centre – and ‘are hopeful that the new service will be up and running in October 2020.’

Located on Erdington High Street, the Walk-In-Centre was forced to close due to Government guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the free to access facility, which fought for survival back in 2013 – again championed by Jack Dromey MP – has been the difference between life and death for some local residents.

I’ve used the Walk-In-centre several times myself, when I’ve been unable to get doctor’s appointments,” tells Shaun Bebbington, who lives on Lindridge Road in Stockland Green. “But about three years ago my partner was quite ill… it turned out to be sepsis, but it was misdiagnosed at least once.

She started having a fit early hours one Tuesday morning; I called an ambulance, but the paramedics also missed the symptoms of sepsis. I got a taxi, with my partner, to the Walk-In-Centre as soon as they opened – they picked up the symptoms right away, asking the right questions, and then got us straight to Good Hope Hospital, where she was for 17 nights.– had she not have had medical attention within that timeframe she would not be here today.”

Jack Dromey MP previously led the campaign to save Erdington Walk-In-Centre back in 2013, when the then David Cameron led Government were looking to close eight healthcare facilities across Birmingham and Solihull.

Seven years later and the MP is back on the frontline, fighting for ‘the future of these vital local services’ – heralding ‘the CCG for your continued constructive and open dialogue.’

But Dromey’s support for Erdington’s health and wellbeing doesn’t stop at the Walk-In-Centre, as the MP has further called for the NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG to ‘consider Erdington as a location for any future drive-through COVID vaccination site.’

Although the location of any new testing facility is too early to confirm, the NHS Birmingham and Solihull Chief Executive did ‘welcome a further conversation with you (Jack Dromey MP) about exploring the excellent community assets you have in Erdington, to see what would be possible.

We will be working harder than ever to ensure that everyone who is eligible for a vaccination is able to have one and would very much welcome your support with this.’

Interview with Jack Dromey MP and Shaun Bebbington – outside the Erdington Walk-In-Centre

For more from Jack Dromey MP, or for contact details to his constituency office, visit www.jackdromey.org

For more on the NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, visit www.birminghamandsolihullccg.nhs.uk