Jan 112014

Lesley Jenkins reflects on what winning an NHS Wales Award meant to everyone involved, in a project to improve hospital signage.

Well, it’s been quite a year since we won the NHS Wales Award! I have Skyped about our idea with other organisations in Australia, another enquiry has arrived from New Zealand, and we have also gone on to win more accolades. All this from a hospital project to improve signage!

Let me take you back to the beginning. In 2012 I was asked to review the signage at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest. Finding your way around a hospital can be confusing and distressing and we wanted to improve the system and make the hospital accessible for everyone.

In the UK, about 20% of the adult population cannot read or understand simple instructions – such as those found on medicine labels – so we felt it was important that any changes we made addressed this issue as well.

We set up a working group with adults with learning disabilities who are part of the Total Communication network, members of Siarad Iechyd/Talking Health (the health board’s engagement scheme), and the Community Health Council.

This group was integral in developing the new symbolised signs and we had some healthy debates over some of the symbols!

We have now become the first hospital within Wales to have colour coded, symbolised signs which are easily noticed and multilingual. This group of service users were truly at the forefront in helping shape this exciting design innovation, and improved the healthcare environment at our hospital.

After producing the signs we decided to enter for the Hywel Dda Best of Health staff awards. We got down to the final three in the Public or Staff Engagement and Involvement category and were highly commended for the project. We were then encouraged to enter the NHS Wales Awards. Although we were extremely proud of our project I never dreamt that we would win such an auspicious award.

On the day of the NHS Wales Awards we took some of our service users along with us, and it was extremely emotional when we were announced. It was a true acknowledgment of how their input has changed the way-finding system across the whole of Hywel Dda, and now, maybe, in healthcare around the world.

Lesley Jenkins is an Acute Services Nurse Manager in Hywel Dda University Health Board.

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