On Friday I was reading a post on NHS Blog Doctor, all about a new system whereby patients book their own hospital appointments. While he complains about the system, which is dubious I grant you, he uses as illustration a fictitious patient called Doris, aged 70. And then comes up with this:
"An intelligent middle class, middle aged patient will make light work of the letter. An old, not so clever widow in her seventies does not understand it. "
Then I read the comments, the first of which was:
"I can barely make sense of that form, so I'm not sure how your patient was supposed to! : Nurse 11.05.07 - 9:45 pm "
I'm not sure whether the nurse making the comment has superior form-interpretation skills by virtue of the fact that he is male or purely because of his/her occupation.
I left a comment objecting to the use of an "old, not so clever widow" as an example but it seems that nobody can see how it perpetuates stereotypes. Repeating that sort of thing just reinforces preconceptions, and I am heartily sick of being assumed to be some sort of an idiot by professions. The excuse eventually given seems to be that he has large numbers of female patients:
"Like most GPs, I have a large number of elderly women with medical problems. A lot of them are widows. Some of them could do battle with Germaine Greer and Beryl Bainbridge. Some of them could not. Even a lot of the highly intelligent competent ones struggle with paperwork as they have never done it in their lives. Some of my male widower patients struggle with cooking - their wives always did it and now they cannot boil an egg. They struggle even more if they are not too intelligent."
Is he saying, he is certainly implying, that all the males could cope with paperwork? Was it necessary to single out a section of his patients as likely not to be able to manage?