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GP practice a double winner for improving access for deaf patients

22 October 2008

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A Northern Ireland practice was a double winner at the Management in Practice Awards 2008, taking home both the Customer Care Award and the Innovation in Training Award (sponsored by AMSPAR).

The Hunter Family Practice in Craigavon went beyond statutory disability laws to improve access and support for their deaf and hard of hearing patients, to the extent that they became the only GP surgery in the UK to be awarded a “Louder than Words” charter by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID).

Achieving this required motivated teamwork as practice staff were encouraged to learn new skills. All members of the team attended an “Introduction to Signing” course. Two members of staff commenced a one-year British Sign Language (BSL) course at a local college. Seven members of the reception and switchboard staff completed Typetalk/Textphone training.

Practice Manager Lorraine Hughes (pictured) collected the two Management in Practice Awards on behalf of her team at a special ceremony at the Birmingham NEC on 8 October.

“I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” she said. “The feedback we got from our patients was wonderful – the project also increased team motivation and morale.”

Northern Ireland has upwards of 250,000 deaf or hard of hearing people, and this figure is set to rise as the population lives longer. The practice therefore decided to introduce a number of initiatives to improve access and services for these patients.

In addition to the staff training, the practice also installed:

  • Flashing lights linked to the alarm system within the health centre to alert deaf people if evacuation of the health centre is necessary due to fire or other danger.
  • Induction loops in all consulting rooms and for both reception areas.
  • A visual patient call system in the waiting room.

In addition, a deaf/hard-of-hearing register was compiled, with computerised flagging of patient records to alert staff if a patient has a hearing problem. A card call system was introduced for deaf patients attending the treatment room so the nurse could easily identify and call the patient without causing embarrassment.

Practice manager and partner Sonia Clark, who also teaches courses that promote awareness of customer service across the frontline of general practice, was one of the judges of the Customer Card Award. Presenting Lorraine with the prize of £500, Sonia explained: “We were looking for innovation, for practices who listen to and represent their patients.”

“We have moved from a time where we were all about numbers and statistics, to one where we want to earn our patients’ respect. I believe that customer care is the future of primary care.”

The Innovation in Training – AMSPAR Award was presented to Lorraine by Elaine Guy, President of AMSPAR and one of the judges of the Innovation in Training Award. Elaine said: “We were looking for something that involved and motivated the entire team and that also improved patient care.”

She added that the Hunter Practice had “showed a real interest in training and development to improve the whole team approach to patient care and the services offered by the practice”.

Lorraine Hughes said: “As practice manager, I am very proud of the practice team, which has shown commitment and loyalty to the practice and gone the extra mile to ensure that we achieved our goals”.

MiP Awards

The latest Management in Practice survey focuses on healthcare finance issues pertinent to practice management. Completing the survey will take just 5 minutes and the results will be reported in the Winter 2008 issue of Management in Practice magazine. There will also be a prize draw where four lucky winners will win £50 worth of Marks & Spencer vouchers. Simply click here to take part