Could a two-way conversation transform Scotland’s health?

We have been reminded of what is important in life

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An article by Barabel McKay, chair of the independent Health and Care Group, which serves as a voice for users of health and care services

Some of us have learned in lockdown the importance of other people, and have been longing for these first personal contacts.

There have been surprises in discovering just what is important in life, and the comfort of knowing you are not alone in your likes, as your favourite brand of chocolate is again sold out.

We have also been made aware that the way we behave makes a difference to the future. It has taken a national emergency to get the government to acknowledge that it needs our compliance and, for that, must give us the information we need.

Suddenly the choices we make are seen as vitally important, and we have a part to play in achieving success for ourselves and our community. Can this be a foundation for a future partnership that could transform the health of Scotland and the pressure on our services?

As a physiotherapist I became aware that there was little that one could do to impose solutions; there had to be a relationship that involved two way listening, mutual trust and support to do what was necessary. In this pandemic Nicola Sturgeon has said that we have behaved in a way that saved lives and protected the NHS.

When this is over we could be at the beginning of another life-altering journey.

It will demand a huge shift in expectations. There is an amazing bias in society towards the idea of decrepitude and dependency in old age, when in fact encouraging dependency increases a slide into that very state. During past months many of these attitudes have been exposed and caused outrage but they are long standing and deep seated.

If you have been trying to escape into fiction you might have no better idea of what is possible. Alison Flood interviewed crime writers about their work, and this is what she found.

Ian Rankin is now writing about a John Rebus who has health issues, James Lee Burke has his detective Robicheaux meditating on mortality in his early 70s and Mark Billingham has slowed his Tom Thorne down a bit because he is in his 50s. Michael Connelly does not believe that it is credible to have his Harry Bosch with a badge and gun and still working for the LAPD, this in a country where the President is 74 and one of the presidential hopefuls 78.

Worst of all, Sara Paretsky created a feisty, strong woman for her books, only to succumb to popular misconceptions and stop her age at 50 because she didn’t ‘want Vi to be helpless’.

These fictional creations battle the evils they see in their society. Now that it is realised how our individual decision making makes a difference, whatever our age, we have no need to feel helpless.

It is time to ask for the information and support we need.

To contact the Health and Care Group, email