Staff at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are learning new skills at work to help them improve patient care. Over 100 clinical and non-clinical staff have gained qualifications in a range of subjects, including British Sign Language, anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, leadership and management.
Alan Whittle, Chief Executive of the Trust, presented staff with certificates and congratulated them on their achievements. He said: “It is fantastic that so many of you take the time and trouble to improve your knowledge and skills, which will help the Trust give excellent care to patients.”
One of the most popular courses at the Trust is British Sign Language (BSL), a visual means of communicating for people with hearing impairments. During the past two years, over 60 members of staff have gained BSL qualifications, tutored by Steve Hartman, who also works as a porter at the Trust and is profoundly deaf.
Steve suffered sudden hearing loss 11 years ago following a bout of flu. He had been running a garage, but was forced to sell his business when he became deaf. He recalls: “My first reaction was anger and frustration. Not being able to hear made me feel completely isolated.”
As he tried to adjust to his new circumstances, Steve learnt to sign, and then qualified as a BSL tutor. In 2008, he began working as a porter at Basildon University Hospital. With
first-hand experience of how difficult it can be for deaf people to deal with everyday situations, such as hospital appointments, Steve decided to try and bring about some improvements.
He explains: “My deaf friends told me they didn’t mind coming to this hospital because I could sign for them, but I am not always around. I decided to try and make this the most deaf-friendly Trust in the country, with at least one BSL signer on every ward.”
The education department at the Trust agreed to fund BSL courses for staff, and Steve has now run five courses for his colleagues with more planned for later this year.
Keith Baggs, Director of Education and Training, said: “As a foundation trust, we are part of the community and it is important that our staff can communicate with all patients, so that we can provide the same high quality service and care for everyone.
Among Steve’s BSL graduates are Tracey Stone, A&E reception supervisor, and Melanie Quy, administrator in the chaplaincy department. Tracy said: “Steve is a great teacher. I really enjoyed the course and am pleased to have been able to assist patients with my signing skills.”