Jewish Health

Health professionals

People’s relationships with health professionals can make a difference to how they cope with their condition on a day to day basis. Most people we talked to had encountered a wide range of health professionals during the course of diagnosis, treatment and management of their condition. They included hospital-based consultant specialists, nursing staff, general practitioners, counsellors and psychologists.
 
People’s relationships with health professionals ranged from positive and supportive encounters to extremely frustrating experiences in which people were very unhappy about the standard of card they have received. This summary aims to give a balanced account of people’s experiences but these are the stories of individuals and they are not necessarily representative.
 
Several people recalled specific encounters when a health professional had said something upsetting, without that professional necessarily being aware of the effect their words had had.
Those who lived in areas of London or other larger cities with a defined Jewish community mostly had encountered health professionals that were respectful and supportive of their religious and cultural requirements. Health professionals who had worked with the Jewish community were also more likely to have come across some of the rarer genetic conditions. A couple of people who had accessed healthcare in Israel and the United States commented on the cultural differences in the doctor – patient relationship. One woman thought her UK doctor disliked the fact that she was assertive in her views and asked challenging questions.
While most people were keen to be actively involved in their own or their child’s healthcare, some found it difficult to challenge what was considered ‘expert opinion’. A couple of people described how they had to be quietly ‘pushy’ to get the care and treatment they needed, or were encouraged by other health professionals to ‘make a fuss’ so their needs would be met. Those who considered themselves ‘outspoken’ in their interactions with health professionals were concerned that other, less vocal, patients might not get the same standard of care.
 
People were aware of the benefits of building rapport with medical staff, as a good personal relationship might mean getting additional insights and treatment tips beyond what might be considered routine practice. However, several people said they had found it difficult to build rapport with one particular consultant, as hospital rotas meant they were likely to see different doctors at each occasion. There was also a fair degree of frustration about hospital appointments being changed at short notice. One patient wondered on what basis the people responsible for scheduling the appointments had made the decision that she could manage for another six weeks without seeing a consultant and thought the process should be made more transparent.
Spending time in the hospital waiting room on the day of the appointment provided an opportunity to meet others with similar conditions. However, many people had to travel fairly long distances to access specialist treatments, so hospital appointments could easily turn into an all-day event. A couple of people were very positive about how the hospital had tried to accommodate their needs though, for example by arranging overnight accommodation for the parents of a girl with CF so that they would not need to travel on the Sabbath.
A few people had received care from health professionals with specialist psychological training such as nurse counsellors or clinical psychologists. However, a couple of people who had been keen to get such support had been unable to access it. A couple of others were lucky to find such support outside the NHS from voluntary organisations and specialist charities for their condition (see Support and support groups).
Many people found it very helpful to be able to contact a nurse or consultant by telephone in case of minor questions or concerns arising between check-ups. Even if they had not made use of such facilities, people found it reassuring to have the option.
Most people we talked to had received their medical care through the NHS. However, a couple of people also had experience of private healthcare for at least some of their treatment. People had positive and negative experiences in both systems. Private healthcare was described as a way of ‘jumping the queue’ while offering a less time-pressured environment and excellent aftercare.

Having treatment on the NHS could feel more like being processed by a large system; one woman with ovarian cancer talked about her ‘conveyor belt experience’. But despite longer waiting times and practical constraints, the NHS was praised for the level of expertise of its consultants and the dedication and caring attitude of its nursing staff.

Last reviewed September 2015.
Last updated June 2013.

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