Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hearing back from the Royal Free London

Despite my silence on here, I can tell you that I've been beavering away trying my hardest to see if I can help change the challenges facing deaf and hard of hearing people in the NHS. What I discovered though in my rants is that lots of you do have accessible GP surgeries and hospitals. One of these is the Royal Free Hospital in London and I was notified that it had a vibrating pager system by one of my fabulous Twitter followers.What's even better is that when I tweeted the Royal Free London, they got back to me and before I knew it, I was able to ask Jasmin Sirius of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust a whole load of questions about what services they offer and why and here's what she said:

Could you tell me what service you use?
The Royal Free uses a vibrating pager system.

What inspired you to get it? Was it patient feedback or forward thinking?
We introduced this initiative in our audiology department. We previously used a number system where numbers were called out and patients would come forward when they were called. This wasn't suitable for our deaf or hard of hearing patients who would miss their turn. Also patients would stand up at the same time as sometimes they didn’t know which number was being called.

Could you give me a rough figure of how much it would cost?
We'll need to check on this for you.

How successful it has been?
Overall the service has been really successful. The system also means that if necessary patients could leave the waiting area for a while and come back when the pager vibrated. 

Do you have any other deaf friendly services?
Yes we have: 
  • Information screens – these electronic plasma screens are placed around the hospital and display information.
  • Main reception service – our main entrance desk function provides a 'front of house' facility to assist patients and visitors to their destination. The main entrance desk and telephones are fitted with induction loop technology. We also have a number of volunteers’ staff help desks at key locations to help patients find their way around the hospital. They are based in the main out-patient department and by the main lifts.
  • Interpreting services – the trust provides interpreting services in order to respond to the needs of individual patients more effectively. During 2010/11, we provided interpreters for many appointments. This included face-to-face interpreting and other communication support. Telephone interpreting was also provided for appointments.
  • Training – during 2010/11, we delivered 90-minute micro learning training for reception and other frontline staff to expand their understanding of physical and sensory disabilities. The training provided practical skills and knowledge on how to identify and meet access needs, customer care, etiquette and language. We are particularly pleased that almost all delegates stated the course was informative. To ensure our training fully addressed the needs of disabled patients, we invited patients with sensory impairments to participate in the training and provide feedback.
  • Partnership working with seldom heard communities – the Royal Free is committed to working in partnership with patients and communities who experience health inequalities to help reduce inequalities and promote environments that are fair and free of discrimination. The trust set up its Equal Access Group in 2004. The terms of reference have since been refreshed and engagement with patients and local community and voluntary organisations from protected groups increased. The purpose of the group is to ensure strategies and practices are in place to meet the diverse health needs of protected groups who experience the greatest inequalities. An appreciative inquiry approach has been adopted providing an opportunity for members to share their successes while proposing innovative ideas about care delivery.
So you see, if one hospital can do it, then surely others can too. In fact, @cath_small a marvellous twitter peep told me that her GP surgery in London offers an online booking system and a snazzy scrolling text information board so you know when your name is called – how fantastic is that?

Feeling quite jealous, I went to see my own GP to get a referral to my audiology clinic, needed because I hadn't been for a such a long time. I got a friend to call and make the appointment – we used google chat to confer about what time was best for me – and then when I arrived, I let the receptionist know I couldn't hear. But by the time it was my turn, another receptionist was on the desk so I didn't hear my name called.

However, once I eventually got inside my GP's office, he was marvellous. I explained how difficult it was for me to get appointments and he assured me that my surgery is in line to get an online booking system but to get it involves upgrading the entire computer system that is in place, which in turn takes time. I also gave him some food for thought about how they could make it easier to know when your name was being called – so hopefully something will be done about that, too.

But what was most reassuring was that he actually listened to me. He didn't think that what I wanted was unreasonable – in the same way some cinemas still seem to think offering more than one subtitled movie a year is – and he was confident that things are going to change.

I too am confident that things are going to change, and I intend to play a part in this, so keep the information coming peeps – let me know if your GP or hospital offers accessible services and if they don't.

And when the day comes that visiting the GP or hospital is only as stressful as it is for hearing peeps, I'm throwing a party to celebrate – and you're all invited!



Tea cosy said...

I'm for that, glad the surgery is getting more organised.

Anonymous said...

If it is true that the Royal Free provide BSL interpreters when needed, what a shame that they can't also manage to provide deafblind manual interpreters when they are needed. I have had approximately 30 appointments at the Royal Free over the past 5 years and not once have they managed to provide me with a deafblind manual interpreter. Good job I expect them to fail and go with my own, of course at my expense.