An ex GP with a seriously ill wife explains why we should all cherish the NHS

Dr Peter Curtis spend his working life in the NHS, but when he  retired he saw the service from the other side, as his wife developed a serious illness  and he became her carer.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 9th April 2018, 10:40 am
Updated Monday, 9th April 2018, 10:46 am
Denise Curtis, who has Parkinson's Disease
Denise Curtis, who has Parkinson's Disease

Here, the former Leyland GP tells his story, and explains why we should cherish the NHS

"Ten years ago I retired from General Practice after 33 years working in the NHS.

"Since then my life has changed in so many ways. Nothing can compare with the pleasure that comes with six grandchildren and now having the time to be involved with them.

Wheelchair rugby player Myles Pearson in action

"My wife Denise and I now live with our younger daughter and her family and our elder daughter and family live across the road. This all came about because of the worsening of Denise’s

"Parkinson’s disease and the realisation that she (and I) would need extra help at sometime in the not too distant future.

"When Denise was first diagnosed, she regularly attended the excellent NHS Neurology service at Royal Preston Hospital.

"Through the clinic we were able to access the Parkinson’s Nurse and Parkinson’s UK who have both provided invaluable help, support and advice.

Wheelchair rugby player Myles Pearson in action

"I became Denise’s full time carer eight years ago and between us we have had to overcome the hurdles of claiming for Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and Continuing Healthcare assessments.

"A three-month stay in hospital after an emergency surgical admission three years ago brought up issues because being next of kin has no legal basis unless you also have a ‘Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Care decisions’.

"As a result the decisions whether to operate or not and whether to agree a ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’ were actually made by the doctors, albeit after discussion with me.

"After a long stay in the surgical ward, Denise was transferred to the Neuro Rehab unit as her severe illness had taken away her mobility and she needed rehabilitation and assessment for her needs at home. Unfortunately Physio and OT treatments were unsuccessful and Denise was at risk of becoming a ‘Bed Blocker’.

"Whilst the family desperately wanted Denise home, we needed all the bells and whistles that would enable this - electric hoist, hospital bed, air mattress, ‘tilt in space’ wheelchair, PEG feeding tube instruction, day and night carers etc.

"Providing this care package at home needed a ‘Continuing Healthcare’ assessment. This is a very daunting process where you can feel that it is all stacked up against you. I was not allowed access to Denise’s records to see what care she would need at home as I did not have the Power of Attorney. A large hint that Denise would not be able to be discharged home unless I saw any appropriate records soon sorted that out.

"The assessment was an emotional but successful one and we finally had Denise back home.

"Since coming home things have run reasonably smoothly with occasional flare-ups of symptoms and complications needing GP intervention. The hoist broke down last Easter weekend with same day replacement. Some issues with the pump for the feeding tube were sorted out with a quick replacement and the bed was replaced because of a problem with the cot sides.

"The wheel chair had a prompt repair to its tilt mechanism. Denise has carers visiting daily and four nights a week. We have contact with the District Nurse or dietitian as needed and I am sure there are others I could contact if necessary.

"All of these services and all the equipment needed have been provided directly or indirectly by the NHS, efficiently and at no cost to us. What have I learned from this? Firstly, having been a GP actually gave me very little true insight into many of the problems faced by carers (this may of course have been my fault). I am still learning. When you become a full time carer you can become very protective and also introspective. Do not decline help out of hand. DLA and now the PIP claims benefit from insider knowledge and Parkinson’s UK were particularly helpful to us. Continuing Healthcare assessments are especially difficult. I had to do a lot of research on the internet for this and I benefitted from being able to ask a GP colleague to extract more information from Denise’s GP records to help fill in some gaps. Make sure you have Lasting Power of Attorneys for ‘Health and Care’ and ‘Property and Financial’.

"Finally, cherish the NHS for you will all have the need for it at some time from cradle to grave."

As we continue our series celebrating 70 years of the NHS, a local Paralympian has explained what it means to him.

From starring for Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympic Games to rubbing shoulders with royalty, athlete Myles Pearson said he owes it all to the NHS.

The 25-year-old wheelchair rugby star from Warton had a series of operations when he was a youngster and needed regular physio.

Myles who competed in the Egmont Games in Denmark with his club West Coast Crash over the weekend, said: “My condition is such that I needed my legs to be straightened out so I had various different surgeries to straighten them, and also my hands as well.

“I needed physio to maintain it. The local NHS provided physios, who not only provided physio but provided support for both my parents to show them how to do it.

“I’m able to do it independently now but without the NHS when I was younger, that would have been impossible.

“There’s lots of things we need to look after and I think the NHS is one of them. You could have so many more sportsmen coming through, being supported by the NHS, people like me.

“Just by maintaining what we have now, could lead to more success for the country in the future.”

Myles was born with arthrogryposis, which causes curved joints in parts of the body at birth.

But thanks to the NHS, former St Bede’s RC School pupil was able to take part in London 2012 – and was the youngest member of Team GB’s wheelchair rugby team at the age of 19.

The sport is nicknamed ‘murderball’ and is Myle’s passion. He took it up after first playing wheelchair tennis and plays for West Coast Crash, based in Southport.

"I was hugely lucky to have amazing physios,” he said after beating Holland on Friday morning. They also gave support to my folks (mum Joanna Pendered and dad Martyn Pearson) as well, and I know they can’t thank them enough.”