Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust - an improved patient experience

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Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust - an improved patient experience *

Summary: Following complaints made about an individual patient's experience of being an inpatient the hospital trust worked with local groups to implement a number of practical changes to improve the overall patient experience for people with visual impairments and other disabilities. The Equality Act 2010 and Equality Duty provided a useful impetus for improvements to the Equality Delivery System. The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust worked closely with the Torbay Visual Impairment Group who fed into the Equality Delivery System in 2012.

Action taken: The Devon Local Involvement Network (LINk) became aware of various communication issues affecting blind and visually impaired people in the county following the launch events that LINk Devon held in September 2008. At the request of the LINk steering group, a group looking at patient communications, including at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital was set up in March 2009, after a period of community engagement.All of the group members had personal experience or knew someone who had personal experience of hospital services where they related to visual impairment. For example, anecdotally people shared experiences of being left without food, as plates were left out and taken away without being noticed by hospital inpatients, whose needs for support with identifying and locating trays of food had not been recorded.

The group prioritised three key areas issues: the hospital environment; the need for improved signage within the hospital and improved patient communications including providing hospital correspondence and health information in accessible formats. After training by the Devon LINk a hospital visit was carried out at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The visit was to gather information in situ about the hospital environment and its suitability for patients with sight loss. Following a visit agreed to by clinical staff and hospital managers members of the patient group set up by the LINk made recommendations to the hospital on improved signage for disabled people to locate and differentiate between men and women's toilets, patients' access needs being recorded and then acted on by hospital staff; training in disability awareness for auxiliary staff who affect patients' sense of dignity and information on appointments in patients' preferred reading formats.

Outcome: Before it became HealthWatch, Devon LINk acknowledged improved signage is a work in progress but said it applauded the measures taken so far in improving hospital services for patients with a visual impairment. The Royal Devon and Exeter Disability established an Equality Action Group which took on responsibility for working with the LINk to implement some of the changes recommended in the Hospital.


* Source: Joint response to the Government's Review of the Public Sector Equality Duty from a group of disability charities and disabled people’s organisations including: Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea, Action on Hearing Loss, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mind, National AIDS Trust, Royal National Institute of Blind People, Scope and Sense [2013]