Disabled woman thanks Bill Esterson for help in getting ambulanc

Helen Parr

A 51-year-old disabled Lydiate woman who was asked "how long she'd had spina bifida" as part of a Tory-Lib Dem Government assessment, has thanked Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson for getting an ambulance reinstated to take her for regular life saving treatments.

Helen Parr has a range of disabilities which include spina bifida. She has poor lung capacity, she is susceptible to crippling severe chest infection, she has epilepsy and she has issues with her balance.

Eight times a year Helen has to go to specialist clinics to receive treatment to keep her alive.

An ambulance is provided to take her to and from one of the four clinics she attends.

But on the last occasion when Helen called to book the ambulance as usual, she was subject to what she refers to as an "interrogation" before then being refused the service. When she asked why, she was told it was because of government cuts.

Helen turned to Bill Esterson for help. When Bill appealed the case, North West Ambulance Service, who took over the patient transport service on April 1, reinstated Helen's service.

Helen told Bill: "I called as normal to book an ambulance. I told them I wanted to book it for the following week. Then I was asked some questions. They then proceeded to quiz me about who does my shopping and how I get about the house. Then I was asked can I get in and out of a taxi? At the end of it all, she told me that I don't meet the criteria for an ambulance.

"I don't think the person on the other end of the phone understood the medical conditions that I have. Last year I was hours from death because I had pneumonia and I needed oxygen. 

"When she told me I was crying my eyes out. I'm not the crying type normally."

Despite her medical conditions, Helen has always tried to live as normal a life as possible. Until just a few years ago she worked as the admin manager for the Everyman theatre.

Helen said: "My parents never made me feel like I had a disability, so I've led a normal life. I worked for 23 years. Initially I went from full to part time because I was struggling. Then I had to finish work because it became too hard.

"I am fiercely independent. I don't like people seeing how difficult it is for me. But it is.

"To lose an ambulance is like losing a lifeline for me - a life-saving lifeline. I really was desperate when they told me I'd lost access to the patient transfer service.

"Thankfully I turned to Bill Esterson for help and he managed to get the service reinstated for me. But each time I book it, I've been told that I have to go through the telephone assessment each and every time, which is ludicrous."

Helen said she hoped that given his own family's experiences, David Cameron would have more compassion for disabled people. She has invited both the Prime Minister and benefits reform mastermind Iain Duncan Smith to spend the week with her.

Helen said: "I thought that David Cameron having a disabled child would look after people who need it, but he hasn't. He is hurting people. For example, two-thirds of the people hurt by the bedroom tax are disabled.

"I feel like I am a scrounger because I am now on benefits. I feel like I'm stuck back in Thatcher's '80s.

"Benefits cuts are already starting to hurt me. I've lost some benefits and I have got to pay some of my council tax now. It's like if you are disabled you have to live on nothing.

"I had to go through an Atos Work Capability Assessment where I was asked by the assessor, when I first got spina bifida. These are supposed to be health professionals. If they were, surely they'd know that spina bifida is a condition you're born with.

"The whole system is against us. 

"The Government is full of old Etonians, multi-millionaires who don't know the real world. Well I want David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith to spend the week with me. To see just how difficult it is for people like me to get by. They need to know what emotional impact this is all having on people who need it.

"I've never taken anything I shouldn't have, but in their eyes I am guilty for being disabled.

"I put into the system throughout my years of work. Now the system won't look after me now I need help and they are putting us through all these tests.

"It gets to the stage where I thought, what's the point?"

Bill Esterson raised Helen's case with the North West Ambulance Service and in Parliament while speaking in the Commons' Debate immediately following the Queen's Speech.

Bill said: "Helen's experience is a clear example of how disabled people are being hounded by this Tory-Lib Dem Government.

"Despite repeatedly making her conditions clear while attempting to book the transport to the clinic, she was initially informed that she was no longer eligible for the service. This is a woman who struggles to walk any distances. Who has clear medical conditions. 

"I fully understand why she is so upset at how she is being treated. She has worked all of her life, overcome countless struggles and now, the Tories and Lib Dems are making her feel like a scrounger.

"To add insult to injury, during her Atos assessment she says she was asked by the medical assessor how long she'd had spina bifida.

"I have detailed Helen's experiences to the North West Ambulance Service. It is clearly a waste of time and money to carry out an assessment each and every time Helen needs to book transportation to a clinic. I have also written to Atos to ask how a health professional can make such a basic blunder.

"And I have passed Helen's invitation to David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith. I look forward to their reply and hope they take Helen up on the offer. It would be good for this Tory-Lib Dem Government to see the real impact of their policies on people in the country."

 

 

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