Hospitals can make people feel vulnerable at the best of times, even without the risk of COVID-19, but for people with sensory disabilities this feeling can only intensify if their communication needs aren’t met.
After collecting people’s opinions across eight different hospitals, Healthwatch Birmingham found that the needs of people with sensory disabilities were being overlooked in a number of hospital waiting rooms in Birmingham.
What did people say, and what changed?
People said they needed more help to access services, help in knowing where to go, and in knowing when their appointment was being called.
Using what people had told them, Healthwatch Birmingham made several recommendations to local hospitals to improve care for patients and carers.
Problem: Unable to leave waiting areas
"Because of the long waiting time and being worried that I would miss my appointment if I left, I was unable to leave the waiting room to get food, so I ended up not eating anything all day. By the time I got to the blood test at the end of the day the nurses had difficulty getting blood as they said I was so dehydrated by that point."
Change in care: City Hospital has now introduced patient held call systems allowing people to leave waiting areas without the anxiety of missing their appointment.
Problem: Unclear where to go
“As a person who is registered blind, I am unable to see who is calling me, so I stand with my son looking like an idiot until they come to collect us on our name being called a couple of times.”
Change in care: Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre staff now guide visually impaired patients to their appointments.
Tell us about your experiences #BecauseWeAllCare
Have your sensory disabilities made it harder to access care during COVID-19? Whether it’s good or bad, we want to hear from you.
It only takes five minutes, and your feedback can help your local NHS and social care services understand how to improve care for you and your loved ones.
Problem: Signage isn’t clear enough
“Only thing they need is brighter signposting for toilets and other facilities. Also all sign boards are too small to be noticed.”
Change in care: At University Hospitals Birmingham an architect with expertise in signage is assisting work to help patients find the correct waiting room.
Other changes following public feedback included:
- Birmingham Dental Hospital now makes announcements in clinics to ensure patients with hearing impairments or sight loss know when it is their turn.
- Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Birmingham Women’s Hospital reception staff now have bold, visible sensory awareness badges stating ‘I am here to help with sensory awareness’.
By sharing experiences of difficulties faced in hospital waiting rooms, people with sensory disabilities in Birmingham were able to improve care for them and others. What would you like to change if you could?
How can you make a difference in your local area?
We have the power to make services listen to the changes that YOU want to see.
When Healthwatch Birmingham asked the public about the areas of healthcare that they wanted to see improved, 71% of respondents wanted to see improved quality of services in hospital waiting rooms, which led to the recommendations above.
Are there areas of health or social care that you would like to see improved? Are there changes that can be made that would not only benefit your experience, but others in your community? Talk to your local Healthwatch or share your experiences online today.