The learning disability zone easy read format

New learning disability zone is a communication breakthrough

The North East Ambulance Service has launched a new resource to support patients with learning disabilities.

A new online resource is now available on the Trust’s website, giving people the information in an easy read format that will help them to choose which emergency service they require, be it  NHS111 or 999.

Public Health England has stated that 40% of people with a learning disability reported having difficulty using health services.  People with learning disabilities are two and a half times more likely to have health problems than other people and therefore many of the patients that staff provide aid to often have barriers to communication during triage and treatment. (Equal Treatment: Closing the Gap).

Engagement manager at the Trust, Mark Johns, explained why there was a need to develop information for different people who use the service.  He said, “We know from patient feedback and surveys that people with learning disabilities find it harder to access and communicate with our service.

Information about how to use our services should be readily available to all members of the public, including people with learning disabilities, and we wanted to make sure that we tailored the information so that it’s accessible to people who need it in a different format.”

LDZ project group

The NEAS learning disability zone has been created to reduce barriers to communication for people with learning disabilities to optimise patient experience and quality of care.  The information is presented an illustrative form of what to do in an emergency, including a section of what to expect inside an ambulance with pictures and basic descriptions of the equipment in the vehicle.

A user led project group was set up with a community group which supports people with learning disabilities to understand the obstacles individuals face and to help design new guidance on how to access emergency assistance.

Stephen Mckay Guidepost day centre officer said, “We support a diverse group of individuals with a wide range of learning disabilities and it’s encouraging to see this work has taken into consideration the varied capacity and needs of these individuals and the end product speaks for itself. So many places create resources for people with learning disabilities without meaningful engagement with them.

“It’s great that the group have been so heavily involved in creating this zone and actually really listened to. NEAS has broken down the barriers that people with learning disabilities can face when it comes to accessing the right healthcare services and developed a resource we think will help support others to understand the services they offer.”

Mark continues “The project group explained their fears about being inside an ambulance and calling 999 so we’ve tried to allay their fears with more information about what happens once calling us and once on board an ambulance. We hope this new resource gives confidence to people when they come across and need our emergency services. For NEAS, it means that our call handlers will be aware of what to expect when arranging the appropriate help for the person in need, making the experience less stressful for all concerned.”

NEAS also arranged for the project group to meet a paramedic who showed them around the inside of an ambulance and encouraged them to experience sitting on the stretcher and wearing an oxygen mask, should it ever happen to them in the future.

LDZ participantCarol who was one of the participants in the project group said, “I was terrified of the mask, that’s why I asked to have a go.  Now I won’t be scared if I needed to ever use it in real life. I hope when people see my picture they won’t feel scared too. The North East Ambulance Service’s website is really good and I’m glad I got to tell the paramedics and other staff what I wanted to know.”

Paul, who was another participant in the project group said, “The new NEAS website page is really good and I really like that NEAS listened to me and I will show other people so they can learn how to get help too.”

You can find out more about the disability learning zone by following this link: /patient-info/learning-disability-zone.aspx

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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