Everyone should be able to access their GP practice, regardless of any physical disabilities or impairments, but this is not always the case. Practice Business speaks to Ian R Goodenough, partner at G2 Architects, to explore what you need to know about ensuring your practice meets accessibility standards – and what action you can take if it doesn’t
The NHS is based upon the principle of equity of access – that every patient should have access to high-quality healthcare – but evidence and research suggests that those living with disabilities can often be disadvantaged.
Those with physical disabilities may have difficulty in accessing primary care, struggling in poorly-designed buildings that haven’t been adapted to accommodate their individual requirements.
Practices have a legal duty under disability + equality Acts and BS 8300 Design of an Accessible and Inclusive Built Environment (guidance) to ensure that their facilities are accessible for those with all physical impairments. Updated in July 2018, the guidelines are clear that practices should be accessible for everyone – including those with limited mobility, those with visual impairment and hearing difficulties, and those with mental health conditions or cognitive problems. Where access is compromised, practices should take reasonable actions – as defined within the acts to obviate or mitigate the impact on patients.
When considering accessibility it’s important to focus on the individual needs, says architect Ian R Goodenough. A partner at healthcare specialists G2 Architects, Ian and his team have designed award-winning modern and accessible practices across the south west. He says you need to think about how the building works as a whole.
Assessment role play
So, what works and what doesn’t in your building? A simple survey asking your patients what they think would provide some interesting and relevant food for thought. Another useful tool to identify accessibility concerns is role-play. Imagine you live with a disability of some sort – how would you navigate through the building?
Role-playing activity needs to recognise different users and their needs relating to the design of the physical aspects of the premises and the activities that are carried out within it.
Practice managers may not be the best people to carry out this role, given their familiarity with the facilities. Rather, it is often easier for an outsider to approach this as they come to a building afresh and are able to objectively review the environment, reacting to what is in front of them with no prior knowledge.
Typically, when we speak about access for those with disabilities, people think about those in wheelchairs. However, while access for wheelchairs is essential, accessibility isn’t just about stairs and ramps. Ian considers the whole range of challenges when developing and improving practices. Here are some common disabilities – and some potential solutions.