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GP practice a double winner for improving access for deaf patients

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

The HunterFamily Practice in Craigavon went beyond statutory disability laws toimprove 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 beawarded a "Louder than Words" charter by the Royal National Institutefor Deaf People (RNID).

Achieving this required motivatedteamwork as practice staff were encouraged to learn new skills. Allmembers of the team attended an "Introduction to Signing" course. Twomembers of staff commenced a one-year British Sign Language (BSL)course at a local college. Seven members of the reception andswitchboard staff completed Typetalk/Textphone training.

PracticeManager Lorraine Hughes (pictured) collected the two Management inPractice Awards on behalf of her team at a special ceremony at theBirmingham NEC on 8 October.

"I can't tell you how much thismeans to us," she said. "The feedback we got from our patients waswonderful - the project also increased team motivation and morale."

NorthernIreland has upwards of 250,000 deaf or hard of hearing people, and thisfigure is set to rise as the population lives longer. The practicetherefore decided to introduce a number of initiatives to improveaccess and services for these patients.

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

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

Inaddition, a deaf/hard-of-hearing register was compiled, withcomputerised flagging of patient records to alert staff if a patienthas a hearing problem. A card call system was introduced for deafpatients attending the treatment room so the nurse could easilyidentify and call the patient without causing embarrassment.

Practicemanager and partner Sonia Clark, who also teaches courses that promoteawareness of customer service across the frontline of general practice,was one of the judges of the Customer Card Award. Presenting Lorrainewith the prize of £500, Sonia explained: "We were looking forinnovation, for practices who listen to and represent their patients."

"Wehave moved from a time where we were all about numbers and statistics,to one where we want to earn our patients' respect. I believe thatcustomer care is the future of primary care."

The Innovation inTraining - AMSPAR Award was presented to Lorraine by Elaine Guy,President of AMSPAR and one of the judges of the Innovation in TrainingAward. Elaine said: "We were looking for something that involved andmotivated the entire team and that also improved patient care."

Sheadded that the Hunter Practice had "showed a real interest in trainingand development to improve the whole team approach to patient care andthe services offered by the practice".

Lorraine Hughes said: "Aspractice manager, I am very proud of the practice team, which has showncommitment and loyalty to the practice and gone the extra mile toensure that we achieved our goals".

MiP Awards