Empowerment and enlightenment: a Scottish doctor/carer partnership in action
Patient peers: “eyes, ears, and a voice that they’ve never had before. These are the precursors of autonomy, emancipation, and self determination.”
Yes I agree wholeheartedly with these words and the exhortation from Dave deBronkart in his refreshing Spotlight piece. It’s what I’ve had to do since becoming an unpaid carer for sons experiencing mental health difficulties who had no choice but to engage with an under-resourced psychiatric system and on occasion face “unreasonable treatment” (as described by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman upholding my complaint against NHS Fife in September 2014). My own experience of recovery from mental illness and psychiatric treatment equipped me for the advocacy role.
I’ve also had to become a writer and blogger (1), an activist and campaigner, to have a voice and influence in the places where decisions are made. Some might describe my involvement as being like a hair shirt or the unwelcome guest at a party. Critical or questioning voices are not often welcome.
However the upside of my campaigning has been the forging of alliances with medical professionals, on level playing fields, with shared aims and life experiences. One of these partnerships is with Dr Peter J Gordon, Consultant Psychiatrist, who is petitioning Scottish Parliament for a Sunshine Act: “creating a searchable record of all payments (including payments in kind) to NHS Scotland healthcare workers from Industry and Commerce”. (2)
Dr Gordon and I are in regular contact, working together, exchanging information, helping to foster transparency and ethical practice in the relationships between drug companies and health boards. Having been a community development worker for over 30 years I am now finding empowerment in our knowledge transfer and in the act of writing to be heard. A reciprocal agreement based on mutual respect.
(1) Chrys Muirhead Writes:
(2) A Sunshine Act for Scotland, Petitioner Peter John Gordon:
Competing interests: No competing interests