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Healthwatch Lancashire mystery shops hospitals to review access for the visually impaired

Healthwatch Lancashire has published a mystery shopping report, focusing on how accessible hospitals in Lancashire are for the visually impaired community.

Between December 2016 and March 2017, Healthwatch Lancashire completed a mystery shopping activity to test the accessibility of 11 hospitals in Lancashire for people with a visual impairment.

The sample of hospitals chosen for the activity were the largest hospitals in Lancashire which have multiple departments and are, potentially, more difficult to navigate.

The report summarises the experiences of a Healthwatch Lancashire volunteer with a visual impairment who simulated visits to eleven different eye clinic departments delivered in hospitals across Lancashire.

The project was undertaken by a Healthwatch Lancashire volunteer that has a visual impairment and is assisted by a trained guide dog.

The results of the report show:

•Small text, positioning of the signs and the contrast of colours were the main issues identified.
•The volunteer valued the assistance that was offered by staff or volunteers, although the level of assistance varied at each hospital and in some hospitals the volunteer struggled to get assistance.
•Some of the accessible toilets visited had baby changing facilities which was not seen as good practice from the volunteer’s point of view.
•Low level lighting in Ormskirk Hospital’s toilet facilities meant that the volunteer struggled to find the hand dryer.
•At Burnley General Hospital, the volunteer used a lift to access the eye clinic. They found that the lift did not speak the floor it was on.
•Signage was very important to the volunteer, although the usefulness of the signage varied at each hospital visited.

Sheralee Turner-Birchall, Chief Executive at Healthwatch Lancashire, said: “Through our programmes of engagement, Healthwatch Lancashire identified an issue with members of the public accessing hospitals with visual impairments.

“Healthwatch Lancashire contributes considerable value into the health and social care system by gathering patient and relatives input into the way services are run. This can be invaluable as sometimes seeing services from their point of view opens up real opportunities for improvement that may not have already been considered.”

The mystery shopping report ‘Accessing Hospitals with a Visual Impairment’ is available to read online or download on the Healthwatch Lancashire website http://www.healthwatchlancashire.co.uk/reports/reports