Praise for the NHS

We’re all very healthy and haven’t had much need for the NHS since we moved here but the school asked us at the end of last year to organise an appointment for Daniel to discuss his autism and Tourette’s syndrome. It was something I’d been thinking about doing at some point but hadn’t got around to it. He used to see a paediatrician in Auckland once a year but if I’m being honest we never got much out of those appointments and so I felt it was all a bit of a waste of time and didn’t see the point.

However they seem much better geared up for ASD in the school here and so I wondered whether we might get more out of an appointment with a specialist here too. So I took Daniel to the GP last month – his first ever visit to a GP in the UK – and the GP referred him to a specialist and we got an appointment for the 25th February which is today. It took us 6 months to get an appointment with the specialist in New Zealand when he first got a referral so we were very impressed that we only had to wait one month in the UK.

This morning we made our way to the Royal Children’s Hospital by bicycle so as not use up any hospital car parks. It only took 20 minutes and if I’m being honest, it was a dreadful ride with lots of traffic and no-where for slow bicycles. But we made it there alive and got a park just outside the front door:


We were there for about an hour and it was terrific. The doctor is going to refer Daniel to an occupational therapist to help with his coordination and fine motor skills. This is something I have always wanted for him. She is also going to write a report for the school with strategies for dealing with his anxiety in the playground. The school is already doing quite a bit in this regard and have started a lunch time scratch club just for him and 10 other kids one day per week. They’ve also enlisted the help of the school psychologist. I think it’s amazing that the school even has a psychologist. We’ve also been given given a tonne of resources for families with kids on the spectrum and with Tourette’s syndrome. I am really impressed with the level of support kids with special needs get in the UK through the NHS. It’s a national treasure.

It’s hard to compare just one school in Auckland with one school in Scotland but Daniel did not qualify for any extra assistance in New Zealand at all and this was not specific to the school he went to. Here he gets lots of extra support in the form of one-on-one teacher support time, the school psychologist, and there’s even a school doctor. The school really goes out of its way to help kids with special needs. Compare this to what has happened to a colleague of Ben’s at the University of Auckland. He and his family moved to New Zealand in 2011 with their two children but their application for residency was denied because their son is autistic. They’re returning to Belgium this year.


20 Replies to “Praise for the NHS”

  1. I have enjoyed your blog for some time, mostly for its environmental protection perspective, but now knowing you have a special needs child adds a whole new dimension to your words.

  2. I think I have mentioned previously, my daughter is a behaviour interventionist working with young autistic children. I have learned a lot from her and now realize there is considerable support available for families dealing with autism. I’m pleased to hear Daniel’s school is supportive and that you are searching out additional resources.

    1. I didn’t know that about your daughter. Things are improving all the time for kids with special needs. There was nothing for them at all 100 years ago so we’ve come a long way.

  3. It is great to hear how things work with NHS. Great that Daniel is getting the much needed extra care.

    I agree with your thoughts on NZ health and school system. They are actually good in NZ but looks like things are better in the UK.

    1. To be fair, the population is much smaller in NZ and so I guess there is less experience with autism.

  4. So impressive. They even offer support for him on the playground. Good for the UK. I am happy for you and your son. It is so good to see a system that actually works as it should. Don’t even get me started on education, medical, and especially mental health system delivery in the US. It is a crying shame. Can you imagine these programs under a Trump presidency?

    1. It might just be a Scottish thing because education is one of those things that has been devolved and is managed by the Scottish government. But taking care of mental health is so important yet often overlooked. And no, I can’t imagine Donald Trump investing in any programs like this.

  5. I’m really impressed with what schools in Scotland offer to children including those with special needs. What a contrast with NZ.

    I hope Daniel makes good progress with the occupational therapist. By the way, what’s a scratch club?

    1. Scratch is a computer program which teaches young children how to program – Daniel loves computers and enjoys using Scratch so we thought it might be a good way to bond with some of the other kids in his class. He really enjoys it and I go along to help out since most of the teachers don’t know how to use Scratch.

  6. Used to work in Outdoor Learning and we tried our best to be inclusive, it wasn’t can we do it?, more a case of how, what resources etc. A can-do attitude goes a long way.

    1. That’s great. Sometimes it’s just a matter of understanding how to communicate with the person in a way they can understand. When Daniel was little I used to draw a storyboard of our activities for the day which helped him a great deal.

  7. Our youngest has had a statement for the last several years – we worked with our local school to get it when she was still in reception. It has made a huge difference to her education, with all sorts of provision for her each week – and has given her half a chance of staying with the group of children she grew up with, rather than being completely excluded.

    If you ever want to swap stories with some parents that have been down this road (she’s 10 now, and off to a specialist school in the Autumn), we would be more than happy to share.

    1. Hi Jonathan, what’s a statement? Is that some kind of diagnosis or assessment? I was very happy when Daniel was first assessed and diagnosed. It reinforced my feelings that he was different and then I really appreciated the extra support. Sometimes the extra support can just be something simple like accepting that he has tics and can’t help them and then ignoring them. When teachers in the past have got frustrated with him and angry about the tics it has made them worse. The teachers here just seem to understand that they should ignore them.

      1. A statement (in the UK) is “a statement of educational needs” – it unlocks funding for the school, which they can spend on extra assistance for that child – such as a specialist teaching assistant to spend a number of hours per week devoted to helping that child, or for an occupational therapist to visit regularly… that kind of thing.

  8. Rachel,

    I share your impressions of the NHS, and your story is uplifting. Good luck with the on-going treatment.

    As a family, we have had a few traumatic episodes to deal with over the years, and on every occasion we have been really impressed with the NHS. I cannot speak for other areas of the country, but in Gloucestershire it feels as if the different disciplines are joined up, communicate and response times have been impressive. I cannot share the details, but suffice to say that we fully support the NHS.

    The Tory right hate public services to their core, especially if it works well, so they hate the NHS and BBC. Less public institutions are in their firing line, such as the Met Office. They know that a frontal attack would be resisted by the public, so they have a dual track strategy to undermine them: 1) erode funding to put pressure on services and find ways to introduce private providers to fill the resulting gaps in service; 2) have an on-going programme of stories and campaigns to create the impression that the services are fundamentally flawed.

    This is death by a thousand cuts, or insults, or news stunts/ campaigns. It is cynical and dishonest, because at they same time they will say “we love the NHS/ etc.”

    The right of the Tory party, such as Gove, Grayling and Whittingdale believe in a low tax UK (i.e. low public service by definition) and are working assiduously to create it.

    They hate the EU not because it controls our lives (the EU did not write Osborne’s austerity budgets, for example), but because it is perceived as yet another institution that gets in the way of unfettered free market enterprise (and one that has the temerity to ensure we have safe drugs across Europe, clean beaches, fair trading, safe labelling, etc.).

    We know the story about “… first they came for the socialists …”. Well, the right wing of the Tory Party are smarter than that … they are going after everything at once, including the NHS, but doing it slowly enough that they think we won’t notice.

    We, though, are not as stupid as they think.

    [Rachel – apologies for the download … but you hit a nerve 🙂 x]

  9. I’ve had a lot of experience of the NHS recently – a very serious autoimmune illness striking out of the blue (at the age of 42 – this isn’t meant to happen!). Certainly got my taxes worth.

    As far as I can tell it was all very efficient; even coordinating across 2 major hospitals, 3 different consultants, community nurses and physiotherapists.. All very joined up. Compared to my worthless private ‘healthcare insurance’ through work, where the clear priority was to avoid providing any treatment.

    The attacks on the NHS are purely ideological, with a topping of lobbying influence from the big private providers. The politicians know that they would never get elected in a NHS privatisation platform, so it is done by stealth and artificial crisis.

    Oh, and our son is on the ASD/ADHD spectrum. All the best ones are.. Good luck.

    1. I’m glad to hear your experience with the NHS was really good too. I also have private health insurance through my work and so far it has proved a waste of money and I’m considering abandoning it. My employer pays the premiums but there’s a small BIK tax that comes out of my pay. I haven’t got a single benefit out of it. Recently I tried to book an appointment with a physiotherapist for a sore neck using the scheme. They asked me whether I’d had a sore neck before and I have so I said yes. This meant they decided it was a pre-existing condition and I couldn’t claim. How can a sore neck be a pre-existing condition? I’ve had headaches before too. Does this mean I have a pre-existing condition? It’s with AXA. Which company are you with?

      1. Pru Health.

        In their summary document, they promise a cash benefit for every night ijn hospital. When you claim, turns out that it’s for scheduled hospital stays only, in one of their selected hospitals, which excludes the main hospitals in the area. So my 20 day stay didn’t count. And I’d need physio for neurological reasons, not physical reasons, so that was ruled out too. All over the course of several long and draining phone calls, being passed between multiple people. Bearing in mind that I was at that point just out of hospital and not at my best.

        I think that these employer schemes are a great cash cow for the companies involved – they get to sign up a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t, and if they don’t deliver the NHS picks up the pieces.

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