Accessible Health Screening

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2004 National Disabled Members' Conference
1 October 2004

Conference is aware of the post code lottery existing throughout the NHS. John Reid pledged to end such practices following the report into NHS funding and service provisions in his speech in parliament in July 2004.

Whilst Conference applauds the promises made to develop a fairer and equal distribution of health provision, we remain concerned at the lack of accessible health screening services for disabled people.

Future legislation will make provision for people with cancer to be “disabled” according to the Disability Discrimination Act, however we are concerned that disabled women will continue to experience discrimination in access to equal health care provision. One example is the lack of accessible screening for early detection of breast, ovarian and cervical cancer. In the case of breast cancer, screening services on offer through employers and GPs are mobile and remain largely inaccessible to disabled women; they are often housed in Portacabin style environments without level access for those with mobility requirements. Physical access and communication systems are still inaccessible to deaf women and visually impaired women. Further, the equipment used to investigate potential breast cancer is inaccessible to women who cannot independently physically support themselves during examinations.

Recent evidence from the Disability Rights Commission’s formal investigation into health inequalities illustrates some alarming inadequacies in health care provision for disabled women. Women with learning difficulties and those with mental ill health experience are significantly at risk from serious health complications and premature mortality rates compared with the general female population.

Existing arrangements for women’s health care may:

1)effectively exclude access to health provision for disabled women;

2)increase the likelihood of health complications that relate to significant cancerous conditions; and

3)force disabled women to travel for services within hospitals that may not be in the locality of their home or workplace causing difficulties in obtaining time off work for treatment, rehabilitation and counselling.

Conference instructs the National Disabled Members Committee to:

a)liaise with the National Women’s Committee to develop a strategy for campaigning for accessible health screening;

b)raise the issue with Labour Link in order to ensure that accessibility to health screening services is included in discussions with policy makers;

c)make contact with relevant ministers to raise the issue of accessible services for disabled women.