Hospital’s changes to help the blind

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WORK is under way to make it easier for blind and partially sighted people to access facilities at Scarborough Hospital.

The trust has been working closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Scarborough Blind and Partially Sighted Society.

Research has shown that health information provided by the NHS is not accessible. From appointment letters, test results and medical warnings, blind and partially sighted people are losing out on getting this vital information in a format they could read.

Working in partnership with the Scarborough Blind and Partially Sighted Society, the RNIB held two events to help people find out about their legal rights around accessible health information.

The events also aimed to increase their confidence and empower them to ask for information in a format they could read for themselves, for example large print, audio, email and braille.

Following these events the health trust has taken onboard the feedback and made a number of changes to make it easier for blind and partially sighted people to access hospital facilities.

Improvements and changes include new signage in the Low Vision Unit (the Dales ward); all ophthalmic appointment letters and low vision letters are now written in a larger 22 point font and the trust has also published its first publication on cataracts in large print.

James Hayward, director of facilities, said: “Working in partnership with these two groups we have been able to tackle the problems that blind and partially sighted people were having in accessing our facilities.

“As well as installing new signage and increasing the font size in patient letters and information leaflets I am also currently looking at awareness training for staff and how we can provide braille for service users.”

Roy Ruddick, RNIB regional campaigns officer for Yorkshire and Humber, said: “Everyone has the right to manage their own health affairs with the same level of speed and privacy, whether they have a sight problem or not.

“Medical information is available in other languages for patients with other than English as a first language. It is only right that blind and partially sighted people have their private and confidential medical information in a format they can read.

“I am delighted that the efforts of individuals and the Scarborough Society have produced such positive results.”

Viv Wright, chief officer of Scarborough Blind and Partially Sighted Society, said: “I am delighted that at last we have reached a successful conclusion to this long-running campaign.

“I have been trying to achieve this co-operation with Scarborough Hospital for the last eight years.

“The improvements that Mr Hayward has already introduced in such a short time will benefit our visually impaired members to a great extent, and will allow them the freedom and privacy which is their right in their dealings with the hospital.

“We hope that GPs, dentists and opticians will follow suit.

“The Equality Act, recently introduced, gives our members the right to be treated the same as other minority groups, and this has been recognised by Scarborough NHS Trust.

“I’d like to thank everyone who attended the meetings; it was with their support that we have been able to make the voice of the visually impaired heard and acted upon.”