23rd May 2011 – Sarah Morris, Matron with news and updates from JPH and Hybrid Electric car demo

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 23rd May 2011 at 2:30pm

At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

David Wilkinson opened the meeting he welcomed members and guests. Sarah Morris, (Matron of the Ophthalmic Ward at the James Paget Hospital)and Lewis Roberts researcher for Brandon Lewis, MP.

The Roll Call was taken, and attendees introduced themselves. There were 23 people present.

Apologies for absence had been received from Judy Morrow, Tim Poole, Charles Johnson, Penny Cox and John Kempster.

As the guest speakers were only able to stay for a short time, discussion of the minutes of the previous meeting was delayed until later in the meeting.

Paul Bowerbank left the meeting, he apologised remembering that he had a hospital appointment. David invited him to the group’s July meeting so that he could update us on the new working arrangements for sensory support.

Lewis Roberts updated the meeting on issues with which Brandon Lewis, MP, had been involved. Both Norfolk County Council and the Great Yarmouth Borough Council had agreed to the use of yellow and black tape on scaffold poles, and had also referred this to the Local Development Association for consideration, and Brandon Lewis had written an article about it for the LGA magazine, which would highlight the advantages to visually impaired people of yellow and black tape over the conventional red and white tape. (LGA is the Local Government Magazine).

With regard to the dangerous crossing at the junction of King Street and Yarmouth Way, Lewis reported that the MP had met with Graham Plant, Head of the Planning Department at Norfolk County Council, to draw attention to the Group’s concerns about safety aspects of this junction. When the MP had a site meeting with David and Penny (User Group members), representatives of local businesses had also aired their concerns that people crossing on the corner rather than at the pedestrian crossing were endangering their lives. Mr Plant’s response had not addressed all the issues, and the MP would continue to campaign on behalf of the community and the VIP User Group for this potential problem to be remedied.

Lewis said that the rally in London had drawn the attention of MPs and members of the House of Lords to the concerns of disabled people about the proposed replacement of DLA.

In response to Lewis Roberts’ update, Terry Driver made the following observations -

1. The new severe sight disablement allowance would only be awarded to new claimants under the age of 65 for men, 60 for women, which seemed an illogical decision.

2. There was no provision for a carer’s allowance to be paid to people in receipt of the State pension who looked after for others.

Lewis would pass these concerns on to the MP.

A further observation was made by Ian Hardy, in respect of foam padding on scaffold poles. If this foam were to be yellow, the retaining tape could be black, and vice versa with black foam and yellow tape.

The Chairman thanked Lewis Roberts for his update, and invited him to the next meeting on 25th July. In the meantime the MP would receive VIP newsletters and minutes of the meeting. Lewis invited Members to call in at the MPs office if they had any further concerns – details would be included in the next Newsletter.

The Chairman welcomed Sarah Morris, Matron of the Ophthalmic Ward at JPH to the meeting. She updated Members on improvements and progress which had been made since she last attended the VIP User Group meeting about a year ago, and said that a lot of consideration had been given by the Nurse Education Department to the essence of care, in such basic areas as communication, respect and dignity, the care environment and nutrition.

Over the last two years, representatives of the NNAB had been involved in a walk around the hospital premises, and an action plan devised. One immediate improvement was to put yellow tape around the lift call buttons.

On-going education and training of nursing and other staff at special training days had focussed on raising awareness of the special needs of patients and visitors with visual and hearing impairment.

New boards above patients’ beds (and patient notes) would, where appropriate, include a sticker to clearly identify a patient with visual impairment (and any other special needs), and these would be moved with the patient if their bed had to be moved elsewhere. If these visual prompts were not in place, visitors should draw it to the attention of the ward staff.

Signs for the Pharmacy and Audiology Department had been found to be poor, and some blue signs have now been replaced with signs on a yellow background with black writing. Signs were to be put in place warning patients, visitors and staff to be cautious of tugs, cages and other equipment moving around the corridors. It was also planned that telephones linked to reception be placed around the hospital for use by people who were lost, and all staff are being encouraged to be helpful if they see people who appeared to be disorientated.

The NNAB had been invited to attend meetings of the hospital readers’ panel. The Chairman reported that he was a member.

Questions had been raised about information held on the Hospital website and whether it could be made more user-friendly for visually impaired people, and The Chairman said he was involved with input to this.

Sarah said that the hospital was trying to source some vibrating pagers, which would be of assistance to deaf and visually impaired people attending appointments in noisy clinics.

Efforts had been made to improve the mealtime experience for people who had difficulty feeding themselves. These people would be easily identified by the provision of a red tray and water jug, and ward staff would be encouraged to offer assistance, by making the jug and glass easily accessible, and making sure that they knew when meals had arrived.

In July 2010 a “mystery shopper” from Deaf Connections had visited the hospital, and as a result there had been a lot of positive feedback about good practice and an action plan devised. Alternatives to voice calls are now available. Hearing support services are available on the website. It had been impressed on staff that it was important for them to address patients directly whenever possible, rather than through the patient’s relatives or carers in the first instance. A digital visual call facility was installed in the hearing department and something appropriate is being investigated for the Eye clinic. Situations where English is not a first language are being addressed, and use of the hearing loop needs to be improved. A digital visual call system is being investigated for the Audiology department. Some staff, especially female members, are softly spoken and calls are often not heard.

The logo for Intran on the website has been improved to make people aware that information is available in an alternative form (TypeTalk) for deaf and visually impaired patients.

George said that in hospitals elsewhere patients could have a red tray for their own belongings so that staff know not to move them about where blind and visually impaired people cannot locate them.

Penny Parker asked whether deaf and visually impaired people had been invited to become involved in the education and training days. David said that he had been involved on behalf of the User Group, and would be copying a recent email from the Trust Board to Wendy at the NNAB office and Paul Bowerbank from the Sensory Support Unit. Also with regard to colour and font on the website has it been checked to see whether it was reacts properly with the speech software. Sarah will check with the IT Department.

Linda Cooper asked whether letters from all departments at the hospital to patients could as a matter of course be printed in a large and bold typeface to make them more accessible to visually impaired people. David will discuss this as part his User Group involvement with the Hospital.

Wendy George asked whether a contrast colour at waist level along the corridor walls would be possible, because all the walls were a neutral beige colour and there was no focal point for visually impaired people.

Terry Driver said that the thrust of the campaign to equip staff to deal with people was to be applauded and imperative in all departments beyond those dealing with visual and auditory matters, and he looked forward to the day when he would not need a companion to accompany him to appointments.

Ian Hardy said that it might be helpful for the Group to have a meeting with the Estates Department at the hospital, to deal with specific matters, such as access. George Barlow suggested that there should be better monitoring of the access to disabled bays, and Sarah said she would refer this to the Portering and Security Department.

Terry reminded the Group that patients should leave their Disabled time card on display in the car and take certification in to the hospital with them, in order to get a free pass out again.

? asked whether patients were ever asked in what format they would like to receive medical information from the hospital. This is not yet in place, but provision of information is currently under review, including the possibly of DVDs.

Sarah confirmed that a patient’s information would be moved from one bed to another, but the hospital was trying to keep moves for sensory impaired people to a minimum to avoid disorientation. Patients’ notes would be annotated with special requirements for the information of all staff including consultants.

Because Sarah had another meeting to attend, it was decided to email any further questions for her to answer. She was invited to return to the September meeting and thanked for attending and giving such positive feedback to the earlier questions.

Further Questions for Sarah Morris

Nelly said that as well as putting up appropriate signs above beds, it was equally important to remove them when that person moved. The system would be undermined if signs were not removed.

Linda McGurk said that visiting was being extended on certain wards, and questioned whether this was to make visitors responsible for nursing patients.

Emily said that she would get the RNIB to send her information about their campaign to make information from dispensing chemists available in audio descriptive form, to see whether the hospital pharmacy would take this on board. Boots were already providing this service and it would be very helpful if the hospital could do so as well.

David said that he would email these questions/comments to Sarah Morris, and if possible, include her reply in the minutes.

Matters Arising from the Minutes of the Last Meeting

There had been a misunderstanding about the representative of Yare Care attending the meeting – this was not the case, and she had not been invited. She would however be invited to a meeting at a later date.

With regard to the police Password scheme, which Tim had said he had positive experience of, David reported that when he went to Great Yarmouth police station they had no idea of what he was talking about. But he was now able to report that if a member of the User Group needed to speak to a PCSO, there was one who could be available at the NNAB Office – please contact the office if you would like to make an appointment.

The fire brigade would be invited to attend a meeting at some time in the future.

Everyone agreed that the visits to Great Yarmouth Potteries were a success.

Emily said that the campaign to keep cars and obstructions off pavements was not a national campaign, and it was agreed that this was something the Group could take up locally if it wished. Terry Driver said that he had in the past raised this problem with the police at Caister, and that their attitude was that if people could get past the cars, they would not take any action. This was not a satisfactory approach in relation to people in wheelchairs and with other disabilities. Emily said that she would see whether there were RNIB guidelines. Ian Hardy said he thought that a gap of 600mm was considered acceptable, but if the VIP group wished to campaign for change, they should stick at it and take the matter further.

Linda Cooper said that as well as cars themselves being a hazard, wing mirrors were also hazardous when cars were parked on the grass verge where she lived.

It was suggested that David should ask Philip Brown, who sits on the police Disability Forum to bring these matters to their attention.

? asked whether there was any likelihood of a pedestrian crossing on North Denes Road, where there were several old people’s bungalows as well as visually impaired people. David had written to local councillors with no success. Ian Hardy would have a look at the viability of providing a crossing, though cost would be a major factor.

In reply to George’s question, the Chairman said that he had written to Parish Councils about provision of bus shelters but had received no replies. He agreed to keep pursuing this, and would be in touch with Penny Cox on her return from holiday, and if necessary arrange to go to County Hall.

Terry said that Parish Councils had the power to approve the construction of a bus shelter, but funding would have to come from elsewhere. Ian Hardy said that in the past he had dealings with a firm called Adsel, who provided shelters free of charge and sold advertising space to pay for them. Planning permission would have to be sought, the highways department would have to be consulted and consent to advertise would have to be granted.

It was agreed that David should select up to ten questions relating to roads, pavements, kerbs, crossing, street lights and bus shelters and conduct a phone survey before September, with a view to inviting someone from the Highways Department to attend the November meeting to answer pertinent questions. Ian Hardy said that, his job permitting, the Borough Council would help as needed.

Concessionary Bus Passes. Shaun reported that there had been an article in the EDP about withdrawal of concessionary bus passes for disabled people between the hours of 8.30 – 9.30 am, and that a Scrutiny Committee would be meeting on 24th May. The article suggested that users should make contact with the scrutiny committee. Of 140,000 bus passes issued by the County Council, only 558 were for visually impaired people, and of those, only a few were people who used the bus before 9.30. If details of the meeting could be found in time, the Group were urged to make representations to the leader of the County Council as soon as possible.

Linda Cooper reported on the Disabled People’s Rally in London. It was well organised. A group of about 6000 people marched along the Embankment to Westminster to lobby their MP. She and other local people had a meeting with Brandon Lewis, at which they made representations about all the issues of concern to visually impaired and disabled people, including yellow & black tape and changes to the mobility component of DLA which would have an impact on their independence. It was understood that, in future, assessments for the new benefit to replace DLA would be carried out by a general assessor. Emily, on behalf of the RNIB said that they were looking at making assessment procedures robust, including evidence from medical specialists where appropriate. Brandon Lewis seemed to be in favour of this approach. The Disability Minister did not attend the rally, but MPs and members of the House of Lords seemed to react in a positive way. The RNIB has warned that cuts to vital benefits may push disabled people over the edge, and it was hoped that the rally would increase the ability of the House of Lords to positively influence the Welfare Reform Bill which, in its current form, threatens the independence of disabled people.

Wendy questioned who would be expected to pay for medical evidence from doctors, to back up the information available to the general assessors, and some Doctors make a charge for this service.

Shaun had received an email from Radar, who were prepared to pay small travelling expenses for people to meet with their MP. He would put details in the minutes of the meeting and Grapevine.

David reported that the Great Yarmouth Library was 50 years old on 24th May and that various celebratory activities would be taking place at the Library. He also reported that the Library and Toll House would in future be the Register Office for civil marriages.

Paul, on behalf of the HAPPI project, told the meeting about the Whoopsadaisy Project, which was all about growing plants for windowsills in residential homes, so residents could take an interest in gardening and looking after plants.

Ian Hardy gave a brief update on the St George’s redevelopment project which was progressing quickly. He was monitoring the development and was hopeful that as the project progressed his work would allow him to represent the needs of the VIP User Group and the Disability Forum but, he said, it was important for the Group as independent users and council tax payers to remain involved in the detailed stages of the development from the point of view of access and ability to take advantage of the facilities offered by the new development.

David gave notice that the Great Yarmouth Disability Forum would meet on 14th June at Cobholm and Lichfield Community Centre.

The Chairman of Health East, replacing the PCT, was hoping to attend a meeting at some time in the future, or send a representative.

Linda queried whether anyone would have any input on access at the new surgery at Shrublands. The Chairman would send Sandy an email.

Nelly explained about the Old People’s Games, for groups of over-50 year olds in the Borough to take part in arts and sports activities, to raise the profile of what’s going on for older people in the area.

Emily had to leave the meeting, but left her email address with the Chairman to go in the minutes in case anyone wished to get in touch with her about any matters with which the RNIB could be of help.

The meeting then moved outside for the demonstration of Chris’s Hybrid Toyota Prius car. Everyone agreed that because it was so quiet, this kind of car would be a hazard for people with sensory impairments (nobody could hear it driving up and down the road).

After returning indoors, Chris explained that the manufacturers were trying to find a noise to put in the engine to alert visually impaired people to the presence of the vehicle.

Shaun played a recording from a recent BBC documentary about a study which was being undertaken by Warwick University to artificially create a sound associated with a vehicle, recognisable as a relevant and identifiable noise.

Chris was thanked for his demonstration.

Wendy said that she had a supply of the “Message in a Bottle” containers, which she would give to anyone who goes in to the office.

The date of the next meeting is Monday 25 July

The meeting ended at 4.20 pm.

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