Friday, 10 July 2009

Parkinson's: great plug for CE

But a rant nevertheless...

Conductor-blogger Ben Foulger has spotted a report on Parkinson's disease on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

You can hear this again on the programme's Archive at:

First, the rant

What a shaming report. Not the report itself, which was exemplary, but its content, the grim tale that unfolded of good people apparently abandoned by a costly and elaborate system supposedly there to serve them and apparently expert in what it knows...

What is the point of the fortune that we in the UK spend upon our National Health Service, with its army of 'managers', on our vast edifice of medical training and the army of highly selected and highly trained doctors that this produces, and the billions poured into researching and manufacturing a panoply of wonder drugs, if this does not add up to an a effective system even to identify, never mind provide for people who live with chronic neurological diseases such as Parkinson's?

One thinks immediately of breweries and the problems that the proverbially inept have in arranging things there.

Of course Woman's Hour and the people who featured on it may have got this altogether wrong.

So presumably have all the people whom I have met over the years who recounted me similar tales, not just over Parkinson's but other late-onsetting adult conditions, and early-onsetting developmental disorders too (not by any means solely in the motor field).

So presumably have all those who have spoken on and presented all the similar radio reports that I have heard over the years. And those who have produced and spoken in similar television reports.

Then, as I myself advance in age, I notice with increasing concern reports of similar institutional and personal incompetence in the care of the elderly, and like so many of my generation think uneasily that I might one day find myself conducting my own personal action-research programme in this field.

All this occurs not just 'in the community' (which most folk now recognise as a mere cant phrase to cover a legion of benign and (not-so-benign) neglectful and second-rate services, but even in the very palaces of our National Health Service, our hospitals themselves, where it is not just the elderly who have grounds to fear.

And lest this be though as knocking the British NHS, believe it or not, similar experiences may be heard of abroad...

The report on Women's Hour shines a short, sharp spotlight on to the shameful shambles that, despite the individual brilliance, humanity and hard work of so many health-workers, is all that actually confronts so many people in sometimes desperate circumstances in our rich, advanced, technological society when they turn to look for the help that they think that they have invested in.

Is it really so unreasonable to ask whether our advanced societies might be exercising the wrong paradigm here to serve the needs of people with chronic medical conditions to learn better ways of getting on with their lives?? Is a health service really a sufficient tool for this higher-order task?

Or to put it differently, do we as a society have the stick grasped firmly (and expensively) by its wrong end?

And so to Conductive Education...

So in the Woman's Hour report, what a delight suddenly to hear Conductive Education not just mentioned but lauded.

Had I myself been to listening to this report either fearing that I or someone I loved might have Parkinson's, or already knowing it, I would have done so in growing despair as it confirmrd terrible anxieties that there is nothing to be done, nothing positive to help get on with life and living. The suddenly the distant skirl of the pipes, the echoe of a trumpet, and the Highlanders or the US Cavalry hoves in sight, the siege is lifted, there is again hope.

Listen for it yourself in the broadcast report, first no more than a by-the-by mention, then suddenly there it is, something altogether new, fresh, qualitatively different.

And this is not even a report on specifically about Conductive Education, it is about Parkinson's disease.

In his blog Ben wrote that I would hate what was said here about Conductive Education. Yes, Ben, as ever I baulked at some of the the specifics.
  • I was sorry that the nice lady from Cheltenham had not been better informed about the nature of CE but she knows something much more important than I hope I will ever know: she knows how much better her life feels since she found Conductive Education.
  • I wish that the programme had been better briefed about the availability of Conductive Education for adults around the country (see Conductive Education Information for a dozen locations around the UK offering some sorts of adult CE services, nothing like as many as needed but rather more that listeners may have understood there to be). Not the programme-makers' fault: just sad that there is no longer a body 'managing' the news for CE.
But no, Ben, such specifics are of minor consequence next to my delight to hear the message of Conductive Education ring through so clearly, perhaps all the more so because this piece of news was in no way 'managed' but the spontaneous expression of a CE-user and the independent judgement upon this by a presenter who really knows Parkinson's.

As always, I live in hope...


Foulger, B. (2009) Conductive Education mentioned on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, 10 July

Maguire, G. (2009) Internet, adults and Conductive Education, 12 February

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