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Cheshire hospital becomes first accredited by autism charity

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A hospital in Cheshire has become the first in the country to have key wards accredited by a leading autism charity, after it created a “quiet route” into the hospital and introduced mandatory autism awareness training for staff.

Macclesfield District General Hospital has been awarded autism accreditation by the National Autistic Society across a number of its key wards, including accident and emergency, the children’s ward and outpatients.

“I am really proud of the enthusiasm shown by staff across the organisation for making our services as autism-friendly as possible”

Kath Senior

The status is awarded to organisations where staff have a good working knowledge of methods and approaches which produce positive outcomes for autistic people.

The hospital, which has been working on the accreditation since 2014, has been praised by the charity for embedding “reasonable adjustments” to create better experiences for autistic patients.

The National Autistic Society said it was impressed by the clear systems and processes in place that ensured hospital staff can help autistic patients have “smooth transitions”.

In addition, the hospital was praised for its “Autism Link” scheme which provides autistic patients with a named and specially-trained contact in each hospital department.

According to the East Cheshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, staff at Macclesfield have spent several years working alongside the charity to develop a framework of best practice that other hospitals can follow to help develop services to meet the needs of autistic patients, their families and carers.

The trust has also taken steps to make the hospital more accessible for patients with autism by creating an “autism-friendly” quiet route which gives full access to the building but with fewer distractions and people along the way.

It has also introduced autism awareness modules as part of mandatory training for clinical staff.

The charity is now calling on other hospitals across the country to work with them and become more accessible for autistic children and adults.

The trust’s director of nursing and quality, Kath Senior, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this accreditation, which shows our autistic patients and their families and carers that they can use our services with confidence.    

“I am really proud of the enthusiasm shown by staff across the organisation for making our services as autism-friendly as possible and we look forward to working with other trusts to pass on what we have learnt and help them embed autism-friendly practices,” she added.

“Their commitment to continually improving is inspirational”

Christine Flintoft-Smith

The complete list of accredited wards at the hospital include: accident and emergency, outpatients, the children’s ward, pre-op assessment, day case, theatres, surgical wards, dental and customer care.

Head of accreditation at the National Autistic Society, Christine Flintoft-Smith, said all staff at the hospital should be “exceptionally proud of their achievement”.

“Their commitment to continually improving is inspirational,” she said. “We’re grateful to the team for helping us over the past few years to adapt our autism accreditation programme so that it can be used to assess work in hospitals.”

Ms Flintoft-Smith the charity’s vision to work with other hospitals in the coming months and years to help them become more accessible for autistic children and adults.

The accreditation follows several other high-profile autism-related awards for the hospital, which became the first of its kind to be awarded the National Autistic Society’s Autism Access Award in 2014 and also won the National Autistic Society’s Professionals Award for Outstanding Health Services two years later.

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