Retirement and Disabilty Exhibition

Singing Town Crier, Pat Dale, added colour to the exhibition.
Click here to see her in the old magistrate's court on the
ground flooor of Todmorden Town Hall. Photo: Helen Gavaghan.

By Helen Gavaghan, Todmorden.

October 14th 20222

Calder Valley MP, Craig Whittaker (Conservative), has sent a report to the local clinical commissioning group concerning access to GPs, following receipt of 38 complaints in six months made against Todmorden Health Centre. Mr Whittaker spoke to Hot Topics Local during an exhibition today at Todmorden Town Hall for people approaching retirement, or with disability, or who have retired. Mr Whittaker’s report will not be made public, but he said Todmorden is the practise about which his office hears the most concern. Mr Whittaker thought health screening by the NHS was generally good. He queried if there should be formal screening for prostate cancer. The event, championed by Mr Whittaker, has run for at least six years, and is held also in Brighouse. It was well attended.

Exhibitors included specialist providers of relevant goods and services.

For example, those with sight impairment can seek help from the Halifax Blind Society, currently in Claire Road, but moving soon to Southgate in Halifax. The organisation provides three-months training in how to use electronic devices such as Tablets, which have software installed to help the visually impaired. After three months, the trainee is offered a 30 percent discount if they purchase a tablet the society has provided. The training is tailored to the client’s own stated need. The individual might want to use Zoom, or grow accustomed to screen readers, which read aloud what is on a computer screen. The Society will have a café in its new premises. They receive referrals from social prescribers, such as Calderdale Social Services’ team for the visually impaired. One neat device they displayed sits on the lip of a cup and beeps when the liquid level reaches a certain height. Another round plastic device with vibrantly coloured buttons enables the user to keep and easily retrieve messages, such as a phone number.

Adjacent to the Halifax Blind Society, the “Independent Living” stand was busy with visitors, and next to them the Vita Health Group was attending for the first time. Vita offers talking therapy for six to eight sessions: including counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, and eye-movement de-sensitization reprocessing. Patients can self-refer or be referred by a GP. Vita is an NHS Service. They do not work with complex needs. Patient consent is needed for Vita intervention, but if they believe the patient is at risk, they will contact a GP. Vita do not access patient medical records, and their service is confidential.

Vulnerability of many kinds was the theme throughout the Hall. Providers ranged from Hebden Bridge Group Practise to Trading Standards and West Yorkshire Police. At the trading standards table, discussion arose as to whether names and addresses on the electoral roll should be routinely made public. One view was the default position should be that names on the electoral roll are not public unless the individual chooses that option. That is the so-called “opt-in” option. Context for the discussion was how to stop elderly and vulnerable people from being targeted by sales. Trading standards personnel said people can inform their telephone provider that they do not want sales and marketing calls. That works only if sales and marketing staff go through telephone preference lists to be certain they may contact a given individual, and it assumes the vulnerable know there is such a thing as a telephone preference list.

Rather than an opt-in “policy”, Mr Whittaker told Hot Topics Local he prefers that there be greater clarity on the voter-registration forms sent out routinely by Councils to the electorate. The choice of whether one’s details are made public could be more clearly stated, he said.

I queried at several stands how the elderly with hearing impairment could access services. I was told by staff at one table that they use sign language. Many of the elderly, however, have not realised they are experiencing a gradual hearing loss, and through much of their life would not have needed to learn sign language.

I asked Mr Whittaker if he thought the NHS should screen routinely for diabetes at about age 40 and for hearing loss. He sidestepped both questions. Of hearing loss, he said providers such as Specsavers and Boots can undertake screening. I pressed the point, saying that those with hearing loss are often in denial and that a letter sent from a GP to all people at age 45, for example, recommending they seek a hearing test, would have greater inclusivity, and mean people did not feel like outsiders.

I drew to his attention how few ethnic minorities were in the crowded room. At one point I saw one non-white woman only. Mr Whittaker said that the ethnic minority population in the Calder Valley was 3 percent, but much higher in Halifax. His office, he says, receives few immigration issues, and he said if they were to receive any, his office would be pleased to action them.

The event was well attended but hard to access because of road works. A sign inside the entry saying the lift is to the left would have been helpful.

Small corrections within 24 hours. Copy closed 05.20 15.10.2022.