Opinion

Planet Rachael: the danger of making assumptions

In the ‘new normal’, we must not assume that virtual consultations are accessible to all
Two salesmen on a train

In the new normal, we must not assume that virtual consultations are accessible to all

Want to hear Rachaels current favourite joke?

Two salesmen get on a train, both carrying sample cases, one accompanied by a small child. The one without a child asks the other what they sell and he replies: Condoms.

Is it appropriate to be selling condoms with your son in tow? he asks.

Oh, this isn't my son, comes the reply, hes a complaint from Bristol.

Assumptions can be dangerous

Reader, please beware of assumptions. In healthcare it is downright dangerous, for example, to assume that your doctors walled certificates are from an institution more prestigious than the university of life, that someone has marked the correct body part for removal, or

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In the ‘new normal’, we must not assume that virtual consultations are accessible to all 


Have you heard the one about the salesmen on a train? Picture: iStock

Want to hear Rachael’s current favourite joke?

Two salesmen get on a train, both carrying sample cases, one accompanied by a small child. The one without a child asks the other what they sell and he replies: ‘Condoms’.

‘Is it appropriate to be selling condoms with your son in tow?’ he asks.

‘Oh, this isn't my son,’ comes the reply, ‘he’s a complaint from Bristol.’

Assumptions can be dangerous

Reader, please beware of assumptions. In healthcare it is downright dangerous, for example, to assume that your doctor’s walled certificates are from an institution more prestigious than the university of life, that someone has marked the correct body part for removal, or someone else has submitted the safeguarding referral.

The national response to the first wave of COVID-19 was also based on several assumptions. These were that the government knew what they were doing (they didn’t), that the NHS wouldn't cope (it did), and that the great British public would make the right decisions in relation to social distancing (mainly they did – unless they worked for Boris Johnson and were worried about their eyesight).

Recovery plans talk about the ‘rapid scaling of new technology’ that enabled service delivery options – fancy words to support the use of virtual clinics in GP surgeries.

Building the ‘new normal’ provides a chance to ensure equal access to services

Data from NHS Digital suggests that face-to-face appointments have reduced but have only been partially replaced by other methods. Taking into account all types of contact, the data suggests that there has been a drop in the number of people contacting their GP. This is a worry.

Using my crystal ball I am now making an assumption that those for whom equal access to services has always been a challenge, such as for those with learning disabilities, will be the one’s not going eye-to-eye with the GP – and I will be right.

If you are involved with service redesign, I urge you to use this unprecedented time to do something unprecedented and deliver services that are suitable for all.


Wendy Johnson is head of safeguarding adults at risk, head of mental health and nursing lead for learning disabilities at Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon. She writes about life with her daughter Rachael who has autism

 


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