"Poor disability awareness from staff"

About: Greater Manchester

(as a staff member posting for a patient/service user),

I have three impairments, (one is a hearing impairment and another is a memory impairment), but because they are hidden, when people look at me, they don’t see any disability. I’ve got a son who has some health issues that mean I visit my GP Surgery regularly.

I’ve been having some issues with the medical centre, some of which are historic and some more recent. In 2006 the surgery referred me to a student counsellor, who, during the appointment, did not treat me with respect or awareness of my needs regarding my disability and therefore could not meet my needs in offering the emotional support I so desperately needed at the time. I went back to my GP to complain and at the time. my GP stated that the counsellor in question had communication issues, and apologised for the student counsellor's behaviour.

Some time later, I requested a letter from my GP as part of my application for disability living allowance. I got this letter, and, in reference to the counselling with the student, my GP had written that I have an anger management problem. Partly as a result of this letter, I lost my case for having disability living allowance.

Last year, the receptionist desk at the surgery was fitted with a glass front that I have been told by staff is to protect receptionists from violent patients, but which is also a barrier for hearing impaired or deaf patients. There was no hearing induction loop fitted in the reception area at this time. On a visit, last year, I was trying to speak to a receptionist at the surgery to make an appointment. I was really struggling to hear her, because of the glass front and told her this. During this conversation, I was having to look at the calendar on my phone and at one point while I was doing this, the receptionist asked me to step aside so she could help another patient queuing behind me. To which I replied that by saying this, she was acting against the Equality Act.

I went to talk to the Practice Manager to complain about the treatment from reception and was told that the receptionist in question is a lovely person and had cried because of my comments. This made me feel like I was the problem, me, instead of the issue lying with the surgery being inaccessible and not adhering to my rights as a patient and a person with disabilities. Now there is a sign on the glass front at reception saying that there is an audio induction loop.

I understand that the surgery reception staff need to be safe, but I’m upset about the fact that there was no consultation with patients prior to putting up the glass screen to make sure the receptionists are still accessible for patients with disabilities.

I now regret not having made a complaint about the surgery back in 2006, when I first had problems there but will do so if I have any more negative experiences.

It’s not all bad. The GPs are great, they’ve been great with my son (especially the asthma nurse). They have a full range of services, I can pick up my hearing aid from downstairs, there are short waiting times and the surgery itself is a very pleasant environment to be in.

My real issue is the lack of accessibility for patients seemingly because of staff attitudes and also, how the surgery staff have responded to my complaints. It’s the corporate, non responsibility speak. They are sorry I feel that the surgery isn’t meeting my needs that make me feel that I’m at fault, rather than saying thanks for highlighting that as an issue, how can we make it better? I would like them to understand that if they get it wrong, they can admit it and ask patients how to make it better.

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