I’m warning in advance that this post is going to be a bit ranty. And I apologise to my overseas readers that this topic isn’t really relevant to them, though I’m sure those in rural areas will be able to relate.
Health-care in the UK is a post-code lottery. If you live in London, where there may be 5 superb hospitals in a 3 mile radius you’re going to receive excellent specialist care particularly for supposedly “rare” conditions like Ehlers-Danlos or Mast Cell Disease. There is a brilliant EDS unit at UCLH which deals with everything from joint pain to gut problems to autonomic issues and which recognises the link between EDS and mast cell disease. Unfortunately for me it’s 300 miles away (7½ hours in a car on a good day). It does have an in-patient unit, but you have to be well enough to a) get there and b) take part in their rigorous physiotherapy programme. I have M.E. and wouldn’t be accepted. I am not only geographically discriminated against, I’m also discriminated against because I’m “too sick”. Make of that what you will.
For the most part, the north of England has shockingly poor health care particularly if you live in a rural area. I live in the second largest county in England, and because of its large surface area it’s sparsely populated. This makes for a lovely, peaceful existence and the chance of dying from treatable diseases. My nearest ambulance station is 7 miles away. The problem is they cover a radius of approximately 20 miles in all directions, including the M6 motorway where there seems to be a crash every other day. If you have a heart attack you just have to hope the ambulances aren’t already on another visit, because if they are you’re in trouble. The next nearest ambulance is 30 miles away and by the time it gets to you it’s too late. Even if the local ambulance is sent to you, if you live 20 miles away up the fells your chance of survival is zero to none, particularly in winter when the roads are snowy as rural roads aren’t gritted. We do have an air ambulance, which is funded solely by charity donations – if they don’t raise enough cash it can’t even get airborne.
My two nearest hospitals are both in “special measures”, which means they are so dire the Government has had to step in to run them. They have a habit of killing people unnecessarily. There are no specialist services for people with EDS and they’ve never heard of Mast Cell Activation Disorder.
My nearest “good” hospital is 90 miles away across the Pennine fells in Newcastle, the main road to which is closed every other week in winter. When I had my spinal surgery there my parents couldn’t visit me for 3 days due to snow – it was tough being 16 and having major surgery without my Mum’s support. Even in Newcastle there are no EDS specialists and the Immunologist I’ve seen for my M.E. doesn’t believe in MCAD.
For those living in Scotland or Northern Ireland the situation is even more desperate. I read on the EDS UK’s Facebook page last week that a woman in Scotland had to travel over 500 miles just to be diagnosed with H-EDS, then of course received zero treatment, advice or support after returning home. The North/South divide is well recognized as can be seen in this BBC report, yet nothing ever changes.
We pay our taxes and our National Insurance stamp just like everyone else. It’s unacceptable that people in the north of the UK, and in particular rural dwellers, should receive such an appalling lack of health care. If the government had their way they’d make us all move to urban areas. The trouble with that being there would be no-one to run the farms which produce the milk we drink and the roast lamb we eat for Sunday lunch (agriculture is the no.1 employer in Cumbria). And when all the city dwellers are stressed out there would be no-where to go for a relaxing weekend break, as all the rural B&Bs would be shut (tourism is the no.2 employer). There would also be no-one to run our nuclear power stations, which are always sited in the countryside because city dwellers would protest too much if they were built there – who cares if there’s a 10 fold increase in leukaemia in northern rural children who live near Sellafield, just so long as Londoners are spared. And there would be no-where to trial gas fracking or large scale wind farms if it weren’t for beautiful, unspoiled areas of countryside, not to mention absolutely no UK oil production which solely takes place in the North Sea.
If I were well I’d be leading a bloody revolt and I can’t understand why healthy northern people aren’t doing just that.