Steve Kinrade, BA (Hons), RGN, Dip Sexual Health.
Patient Information Officer, Royal Liverpool Hospital and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust
Much is debated and written about service delivery in the NHS. It is constantly on political, economic and social agendas. However, in light of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, does the NHS discriminate against disabled members of our society when they are in need of the services it offers?
For the purposes of this article, patients with a disability from a number of trusts, as well as representatives of patients groups and organisations, were interviewed in an informal manner. They were questioned on their experiences as a disabled person in hospital, and asked for suggestions about how NHS hospitals and primary care trusts could improve the quality of service that was being provided. The themes that emerged are discussed in Box 1.
Awareness raising is the key to improving the service delivered to patients with disabilities. The NHS needs to provide a framework to educate and support all its staff in order that disabled patients are treated in a non-discriminatory fashion (see Box 2).
Health-care professionals have particular responsibilities and opportunities to challenge discriminatory thinking, policies, protocols, and practices.The Disability Discrimination Act should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat: an opportunity to ensure that all our patients have equitable access to a quality service. The Act should be embraced by the NHS, and the NHS needs to put in place policies and protocols to ensure that awareness of disability issues is raised and that frontline staff can access clinical support when required in order to deliver a first-class service to all of its patients.
Baker, M., Fardell, J., Jones, B. (1997) Disability and Rehabilitation: Survey of education needs of health and social service professionals. Full report: the case for action. London: Open Learning Project.
Conway, K. (1996) Nursing the physically disabled in a general hospital ward. Journal of Clinical Nursing 5: 2, 121-125.
Farrell, G.A. (1991) How accurately do nurses perceive patient’s needs? A comparison of general and psychiatric settings. Journal of Advanced Nursing 16: 1062-1070.
George, M. (1992) As others see us. Nursing Standard 7: 10, 20-21.
Marsden, R., Davis, S. (2001) Disabled people in hospital: evaluating the CNS role. Nursing Standard 15: 21, 33-37.