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Charity Taskforce Launched to Improve Women’s Access to Health Services



The Spinal Injuries Association has set up a women’s taskforce to tackle the inequalities that exist for disabled women trying to access vital health screening and diagnostic tests.


It follows an incident involving Dani Czernuszka-Watts (pictured above). Paralysed from the waist down due to spinal cord injury, Dani was reduced to tears when a hospital turned her away from an MRI scan.


Dani sustained a spinal cord injury six years ago due to a reckless rugby tackle by an opponent.

Determined to not let that hold her back she has taken on the challenge of climbing Snowdon, completed the London Marathon twice and is now a part of the Great Britain para ice hockey squad.


She said when she went to her appointment at the West Berkshire Hospital, she was humiliated by the way she was questioned. She was sent outside to the mobile scanner but as she could not climb the steps and the lift was only for emergencies, she was told that she could not have the scan.


They told her that she had to be able to walk into the scanner for it to be undertaken. Dani replied that she could get up the stairs on her backside, but they refused.


“Teams at West Berkshire Community Hospital will typically consult patients in advance to let them know details of appointments and understand any accessibility requirements but failed to do so in this case,” said Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust in a statement apologising for any inconvenience and disruption caused.


“We will be taking learnings from this incident to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future."


Now 35-year-old Dani wants to raise awareness of these issues that disabled people face when trying to access healthcare and has joined forces with the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) who are campaigning to improve things.


“Dani’s experience is not an isolated incident,” said a spokesman for SIA.


“75 years since the NHS was established, 28 years since the Disability Discrimination Act, which then got replaced by the Equality Act of 2010, which pulled together all other protected characteristics and yet, we still hear these stories on a day-to-day basis, whether it is to do with disability, gender, race, religion, or anything else.


“The fact that nothing substantive has been done, when many of the changes will not even cost a lot of money, if any, is beyond frustrating. Disabled women, especially those with spinal cord injuries and other similar conditions who are in wheelchairs, are not able to equally access diagnostic tests or other gynaecological advice, across the country.


“SIA are campaigning to bring change and equity in women’s healthcare, and as a first step we are putting together a task force convening service users, providers and senior decisionmakers, in Parliament, the NHS and other relevant organisations.”


To find out more go to www.spinal.co.uk

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