NHS Lothian launches strategy to improve access for disabled people

A NEW project has been put in place to make it easier for disabled people to access health services in Lothian.

NHS Lothian's Disability Equality Scheme sets out how the health board will improve access to health services and employment in the NHS for disabled people over the next three years.

Carers, patients and healthcare professionals were brought together on a steering group to help create the plan.

The priorities identified by the group, and through wider public consultation, are now at the heart of the scheme. They are that:

  • Staff should have more positive attitudes to disability, through better leadership and training
  • All barriers to access should be tackled, including communication
  • NHS Lothian should become an employer where disabled people are treated equally
  • NHS Lothian should work with service users and partner organisations to support independent living and anticipatory care for disabled people.

The scheme is set to be given the green light at NHS Lothian's board meeting today (Wednesday 25th).

Group members involved in the development of the scheme included Zoe Picton-Howell, the mum of a little boy with serious disabilities and multiple health problems – she is also a lawyer with expertise in childhood disability.

Zoe was impressed by the efforts made to ensure that patients and carers had a strong voice on what should be included in the scheme.

She said:

“It's early days, but it was a very positive experience being involved. I hope it will lead to real change, because real change is needed.”

Following the consultation, an action plan has been developed to show how the aims will be achieved, and impact assessments will be carried to measure the effect of the scheme.

Zoe and her colleagues will also carry out a full review in a year's time to make sure it is making a real difference.

All this builds on the achievements of the last three-year scheme, set up in recognition of the need to provide better access for the one in five people in Lothian with a disability.

These included £1 million invested to improve physical access to buildings and disability equality training for 3,000 staff.

Professor James Barbour, Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said:

NHS Lothian is a large, complex organisation with tremendous ability to do good. With such a wide range of health services, and such a large number of staff, NHS Lothian inevitably touches upon the lives of very many people, within Lothian and beyond. This includes disabled people as patients, carers, family members and as employees.
“We are absolutely committed to tackling inequality, but we do not always get it right. This Disability Equality Scheme aims to help us address this, and achieve the highest possible level of disability equality.”

James Glover, Head of Equality and Diversity, NHS Lothian, said:

This work could not have been done without lots of time and effort put in by the disabled people and carers on our steering group. We hope that they will continue to hold us to account over the lifetime of the scheme. We will only continue to make progress if we work in partnership with disabled people”.