As part of Learning Disability Awareness week, People First Dorset have launched a new short video which documents their members' journey as they explore the accessibility of information for people with learning disabilities in GP surgeries and hospitals.
During 2016, People First Dorset (PFD) were funded by NHS England to explore how people who have a learning disability in Dorset understand information - such as reading notice boards or referral letters, asking for help and ordering prescriptions - in GP surgeries and hospitals. The research was carried out by members of PFD, all of whom have a learning disability.
Members of People First Dorset looked at how easy it was to access information in two GP practices and a community hospital. They found the sheer quantity of information staggering, although when a piece of information was seen in isolation, it was generally considered OK. For example, in a focus group, it took four individuals with mild learning disabilities about five minutes to work together to come to an understanding about what a referral letter was. The group also commented that information boards were often overloaded with information, which they found overwhelming.
The group then made some realistic recommendations to the surgeries and community hospital to help them improve. This included simple steps such as theming information boards and adding clear, large, bold titles above each section which could direct people to the most relevant information. They also worked with Weymouth Community Hospital to create an easy read leaflet for people who have a learning disability to help people understand how the hospital helps them.
Another suggestion was how it may be made easier for people with learning disabilities to ask for help when they did not understand a piece of information. This was something which was highlighted by the group, and experienced at all stages of the patient journey. It was suggested that an Easy Read ‘ask for help’ sign, which resonated with people who have a learning disability, would be useful for them to use.
The project also prompted wider conversations, not least ensuring that people with learning disabilities are consulted as to what information they actually want when accessing a NHS service. Producing more Easy Read information may only serve to overwhelm people, so it would be helpful to review if other methods of communicating information could be used more effectively.
For more information on the project or a copy of the main report, please contact Laura@peoplefirstdorset.org.uk. To find out more about People First Dorset, visit their website www.peoplefirstdorset.org.uk or call them on 01305 257600.