GP practices, dentists, opticians and pharmacists in the Bradford district are being given extra help to make their services and premises easier for disabled people to access, thanks to a new local NHS guide.

All primary care services now have copies of the guide, which gives them lots of information on the best ways to improve their access and provision for disabled patients and customers  – both in terms of physical premises and the customer care they offer to disabled people.

The guide has been developed by NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds and includes information gathered from local disabled people, primary care providers and from national best practice. It contains many simple and inexpensive tips to improve access, such as:

  • keeping a hearing loop switched on all the time a GP practice or other premises is open – so a hearing aid user doesn’t have to ask
  • flagging up a disabled person’s access requirements on the screen receptionists see – so people don’t need to ask or explain every visit.

Lynne Carter, head of equality and diversity at NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds, said: “Disabled people are a very diverse group, with most people having a non-visible disability, so it’s very important for primary care services to try and improve access for them.

“We’ve worked closely with local disabled people to find out some of the problems they often experience when using NHS services and also some of the things that can be changed quickly and easily to make a big difference.”

Wheelchair user Gillian Grant, worked in an advisory capacity on the guide after taking part in an accessibility audit of local primary care premises. She said: “We found basic things were needed, like contrasting colours on signs, literature available in different formats and doors that allowed people of all abilities to get through them easily.

“The aim is to try and make things better for disabled patients and the access guide is a good starting point. It’s a useful awareness-raising document and a great deal of work went into putting it together. It can help point primary care providers towards better practice and encourage them to make the practical changes necessary to create a user-friendly experience for all their patients and customers.

Jackie Croft, Patient Services Manager at The Ridge Medical Practice in Bradford, is one of the many primary care staff in the district who welcome the guide. “It will have a very positive impact on not just ours, but other surgeries. It will equip staff with valuable information and allow them to support patients and improve their quality of care, by better understanding their needs.

“As for non clinical members of the team, specifically reception, we have taken on board practical guidance from the access guide and will incorporate it into our continual training process.”