If you are receiving medical treatment, it helps if you take responsibility for what’s going on – ask questions, understand your options, make choices. The message is, it’s OK to ask.
Top tips are:
- write down your questions before an appointment
- be as clear as possible about what’s going on for you: what medication you take, how you’re feeling
- take a friend with you for moral support
- just say if you don’t understand anything; feed back your understanding to check out it matches; ask them to write things down, draw pictures
- ask what tests involve, what they are for
- ask what treatment involves, what the side effects and risks are, what evidence there is that it works, what else you might do yourself
- ask for further information – websites, support groups, leaflets
- if you are not a fan of medical intervention, ask for a referral to a homeopathic hospital or consultant
- ask what happens next, who you can contact meantime for updates or help.
It’s worth keeping a note of who you see, when, the outcome just for your own records. You’ll be asked over and over again on your journey for your details and background and until the systems are better, having a note prepared might save you losing the will to live too early.
There is a growing number of us to take care of. At times we may feel more like a customer, client, patient, statistic than a person. And at the end of life possibly more than any other time, we may be at our most vulnerable and need the most personal care and attention. It’s up to us, supported by family and friends, to do the best for ourselves.
Rights: dignity, control, choice – these are critical to our wellbeing and are embedded in Patient Charters. If you feel any of these are being compromised, you have the right to challenge those caring for you.
Responsibilities: make sure you know your options, state your preferences, ask questions, make decisions. Whether you are supporting another or planning for yourself, it’s critical that you capture what constitutes a good life and a good death for you in an Advance Decision.
If you have any concerns about the quality of care you have received, you can make a complaint. Report issues to the practice manager or hospital manager. All doctors surgeries and hospitals have a complaints procedure. If this does not help – sometimes it feels a bit pointless complaining to the people you’re complaining about – you can get independent help.
There are independent advocacy services that will help support you if you want to take up an issue about your care or treatment. Each local health board has an advocacy service attached. It means there’s someone on your side and this can be extremely helpful if you are feeling vulnerable, can’t find your way through the system or struggle with the paperwork.
Broad help, information, guidance and support is available to patients:
0845 608 4455
Scotland Patients Association
0141 942 0376
All of this works fine so long as you are able to express yourself. Remember, if you are no longer able to state your wishes and you haven’t recorded them in an Advance Decision, then the Judges word will be final.