In perspective - World affairs

Claire Strickland explains why what happens in the world matters to her – and why it should matter to you

Evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that climate change is happening.

Yet there are plenty of intelligent people who refuse to recognise the increasingly obvious fact.

It is also absolutely indisputable that people in many countries are being tortured, imprisoned without trial, raped, bombed by their own or some other government, or ethnically cleansed.

How can you ignore that any more than the facts about climate change?

In our cosy and mainly free democratic society, we would find such human rights offences intolerable. It’s easy to take our rights for granted – which could be why some people ignore the newspaper and TV reports on human suffering.  

But those affected are not as far away as you’d imagine. As physio staff, we may come into direct contact with people whose human rights have been violated and who have come to our country as a place of safety.

I know, from personal experience as a physio in a central London hospital, that what we consider to be standard healthcare service delivery can trigger negative reactions in people who have been traumatised.

The authoritative healthcare professional becomes someone to fear, rather than someone who wants to use his or her expertise to offer support and help.

As CSP members, our code expects us to recognise the power dynamics that is part of our practice.

What is the effect of this perceived imbalance of power?

For our patients, it’s shown in either a disempowering anxiety, or at the very least a tenuous nervousness.

How often do we hear patients say, following a visit to their doctor: ‘I didn’t like to ask, he seemed so busy’,’I forgot to ask’, ‘I was too nervous and the doctor kept looking at her watch’? How often do we say to patients: ‘Write a list’, or ‘Send a list to the doctor in advance’, or ‘Jot things down as you think of them’?

If the average UK patient has difficulty, how much more difficult for patients who have learned to be terrified of authority in whatever form they encounter it?

To the patient who has been wrongfully imprisoned or abused by authority, our uniforms can symbolise repression and signal a danger that the patient should not reveal too much.

That is why knowledge of what’s happening beyond our shores should matter to all physios.

Imagine that your right to join a trade union was no longer something you could take granted.

In Colombia, for example, if you are a member of a trade union, you are quite likely to be imprisoned, or tortured, or just ‘disappeared’.

As Dave Smith’s article suggests, misunderstandings are often based on ignorance.

Like climate change, these are things we need to know about.

Claire Strickland is the CSP’s head of physiotherapy practice

Claire Strickland

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