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Hannah Barham-Brown: Time to talk...

Hannah Barham-Brown at her TEDx talk

Wednesday, 3rd July 2019

June seems to have been a month of talking; it feels like everyone must have heard me saying something over the last four weeks, so if that includes you, and you’re sick of the sound of me already, I can only apologise!

First and foremost, my TEDxExeter talk was released onto YouTube, and thanks to many lovely people liking, sharing, commenting and watching it on repeat (thanks Mum!), it was selected to go onto the main TED website, available to their two million subscribers. You can see me (and Merida the chair, of course) here

This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, and it has been a pleasure to work with Lord Shinkwin on his report into the role of disabled people in the workplace. On the way into a recording session in preparation for this (where, surprise surprise, I was talking), I had the utter delight of rolling into Sophie Christiansen, the 8x Paralympic Gold Medalist in Dressage – so much Fangirling. SO MUCH.

The following week saw three talks, to three very different audiences. First, I went to Emerald Publishing, an international publishing house, to talk to them about my experiences in the NHS Workforce, my campaigning work, and my experiences running (rolling) for the Women’s Equality Party. This was quite the experience, especially when I realised I was being live-beamed around the world to the USA and India!

The following day, I was off to the NHS Confederation – where all the different organisations under the NHS umbrella come together for a conference. I was speaking on a panel about embracing diversity in the workforce, my experiences as a disabled doctor, how we can get more disabled people working in the NHS, and most importantly; why we should!

Readers of my blogs may know that I’ve been quite a vocal part of the People’s Vote campaign; in October 2018 I spoke at the March in London, to an audience of 700,000 (boy, am I glad they didn’t warn me about that one beforehand!). Well, it was a pleasure and delight to do a repeat act on the 22nd at the launch of their national tour of rallies, which started in my hometown of Leeds.

The end of this month involved a five-day trip to Belfast, for the Annual Representative’s Meeting of the British Medical Association, who I do a lot of work with. Over these five days, we discussed and voted on policy for the next year. Before all of that, however, I had my first flight with a powerchair. This is always a bit of a daunting prospect with any chair, not helped by plane companies trying to insist on 48 hours’ notice – as I pointed out quite loudly on Twitter, we work too, and can’t always predict our lives that far in advance! Having said that, despite a wee bit of stress on my part, it all worked very smoothly in both directions. The battery came with me in the cabin, the chair was transported in the hold once I was safely got onto the plane – and delivered back to me in one piece (with only a couple of scratches, but fully functional at least).

Once I was at the meeting, it was time to work hard (with a little bit of playing hard too!). I spoke on couple of motions, both of which passed. The first was about drug shortages, and I spoke about my experiences having patients struggling to get their medications, and indeed, struggling to get some of my own.

The second motion I spoke on I actually wrote and proposed; I have recently been made aware that the 250,000 hoist-dependent people in the UK often struggle to get the most basic examinations performed by their GPs as there are very few surgeries with hoists and accessible beds in the UK. This means disabled women struggle to have their cervical smears, amongst other examinations. I spoke about how all too often in the UK, disabled people are still made to feel like second class citizens, and while this should never be the case anywhere, it certainly should be a never event in our health system. I was delighted that this motion was passed unanimously, and that the BMA will now be working to lobby the NHS to ensure that every Clinical Commissioning Group and Health Board has to install at least one hoist and accessible bed to remedy this. It’s not perfect, but it is a start, and a real improvement that will hopefully change lives.

So yes, there’s been a lot of hot air from me this month, but hopefully, all those people that have had to listen to me will go on to make the lives of people like me that little bit easier. So I’ll keep talking.


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