I am not disabled. Generally I’m in good health. But when I wake up in the morning I can’t walk.
Since my late teens I’ve had arthritis. It is in many of my joints and this is a chronic condition. This will not go away or get better. Mostly I’m ok. Stiff in the mornings or after I’ve been sitting still for a while but otherwise not too bad. The first thing I do in the morning is most certainly NOT rush to get some coffee to wake up. I can’t grip well for a while so it’s best for me to not be handling containers of hot liquid. Not that I can rush anyway. I am not able to walk smoothly or properly co-ordinate my limbs for a while. It takes a bit of time until I can walk this off. Once I get my joints used to moving again they gradually get with the programme and return to normal. By the time I’m ready to leave for work you wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with me.
It’s not always like that though. This is a condition which comes and goes. Right now it’s bad. When I wake up I can’t stand. I’m lucky that it rarely hits all joints at once so I can push myself up to my feet and then use furniture to propel myself by supporting my weight on my arms rather than my legs. One of my heels is really painful lately so I can’t put that foot flat on the floor. This, coupled with the stiffness and loss of co-ordination means my balance isn’t good. More than once I’ve managed to get to my feet only to tip over and land straight back in bed again. And then I’m tempted to just stay there because I also experience a lot of fatigue when the arthritis is bad.
One day this is not going to ease off and let me function normally. My medical needs will slowly increase as things get worse. Over time my joints are going to be gradually damaged and at some point they are going to stop me from doing things. Because my arthritis is in the majority of my joints I don’t know exactly what this will be. I might lose useful functioning in a wrist or I might have longterm problems manipulating my legs well enough to walk. I might not stiffen up but could experience chronic, neverending pain. At some point I will probably not be fit enough to drive a train and if things get really bad then I may be unable to work at all. It’s not inevitable but these things are realistic possibilities for my future. And there’s quite a lot of future to have this happen in. This is not an old codger writing. I’m in my thirties.
It’s possible in the future I will require some help to have a normal life. I might need someone to go to the supermarket for me because I can’t walk that far. I might need to use a taxi instead of public transport because I can’t reliably grip the grab rails on a crowded bus. I might need help with basic housework because I can’t grip or lift easily. Yet all this costs money. People don’t clean your house or go to the shops out of the goodness of their hearts. Taxi drivers don’t live on fresh air. And if my future does turn out like this then I’m going to have to whistle for it because the current government wants to take away things like Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit and either reduce the numbers of people who can receive them or make them impossibly hard to get.
And then there’s basic medical care. I look at what Lansley and Cameron want to do to our health service with the NHS Reform bill (or more properly the Health & Social Care bill) and I fear for the future. The proposals are focused on losing a centralised system of care and farming it out to private practitioners. Private practitioners who don’t have to provide any kind of care they don’t want to. Currently healthcare can be something of a postcode lottery. That’s going to get much worse. The NHS Bill is not about reform. It’s about slash and burn and creaming off profits for private business. If the bill passes then the NHS as we know it will be dismantled and our future access to medical care will be very different. It will be costly, bureaucratic and reduce the quality of patient care with NHS patients being in direct competition for treatment with private patients.
Opposition to the Bill is not being tolerated. David Cameron’s recent emergency healthcare summit at Downing St was a farce. Only those medical bodies who tolerate it were invited.You can see Ben Goldacre’s excellent analysis of who was and who wasn’t invited here. And a doctor who openly opposes the changes is being threatened with disciplinary action for doing so. The mere act of adding his name to a letter condemning the proposed Bill has been said to be a breach of the NHS code of conduct. Other critics are being similarly silenced.
At the time of writing this the e-petition calling on the government to drop the health bill has over 156,000 signatures. It has already surpassed the 100,000 target at which the government claimed parliament would consider debating the issue. But every signature counts. Every single signatory is a person who lives in this country and who at some time or another will have need of healthcare. If you live in the UK then you will need healthcare too. Please sign it.
I’m a traindriver. I earn a lot and thusly pay a lot in taxes. And I’ve always been proud to pay tax in a country where we use that money to help those less fortunate. Not any longer because my taxes will be used to pay for needless cable cars across the Thames and sporting jamborees. They’ll pay for operations in one private clinic and partly pay for recovery in another instead of comprehensive, centralised, patient-focused care. I’d far rather my taxes were used to support those less able than myself and to provide universal, centralised healthcare that is free at the point of delivery. Just like I’ve always been promised.
I am Spartacus.
You are Spartacus too.