Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is a leading provider of community health services in the north west of England. It offers high quality community and specialist services to over 1.3 million people living in Bolton, Halton, Oldham, Wigan, St Helens, Warrington and neighbouring areas.

Bridgewater complements the role of hospitals and the GP network, providing access to a wide spectrum of out of hospital, community based  care services. These range from district nursing, health visitors and school nurses to physiotherapy, speech/language therapy and specialist community dental care.

Patients may be referred to Bridgewater via their GP or other healthcare professional, or once they’ve been discharged from hospital. Equally, they can ‘self-serve’ by directly requesting many services online.

An emphasis on inclusion

As a Community Healthcare Trust, Bridgewater is committed to making reasonable adjustments in services for patients with disabilities and other access needs.

Equality and Inclusion Officer Ruth Besford also champions the needs of other ‘seldom heard’ members of the community, including asylum seekers/refugees, economic migrants, members of the gypsy traveller community and BME groups.

These individuals may not speak English as their first language, may have lower literacy in written English, or they may have limited digital skills that make using online health services more challenging.

“The internet is becoming an increasingly important point of access for patients” observes Ruth, “and that increasingly includes groups like older people, who would traditionally have preferred to be contacted by letter or telephone”.

As Ruth explains, this steady growth in self-service provision has made it vital for Bridgewater to ensure digital access to services is made as simple and hassle-free as possible. What’s more, the NHS Accessible Information Standard (AIS) mandates NHS Trusts to make their communications, including digital services, inclusive for all users.

Friendly help with accessing services online

Since November 2016 Browsealoud has been implemented on all of the Trust’s web pages. Clicking the Browsealoud icon on any web page opens a friendly toolbar, giving help to online visitors with a wide range of accessibility issues.

Individuals with dyslexia, visual impairment and other reading difficulties can hear on-screen text read out loud, accompanied by an on-screen highlighter. There’s also a handy screen magnifier, and a screen mask function to help readers with perceptual impairments like Irlen Syndrome that can make text hard to read. Page content can be instantly translated to any of 99 languages.  In addition, there’s an MP3 maker for patients who want to turn web pages into audio files for listening at their convenience.

“Browsealoud has made a really big difference to many of our users”, says Ruth. “Everything we do at Bridgewater is driven by equality of access. As healthcare service provision goes increasingly digital, Browsealoud really helps us get more content and resources onto the web in a way that all patients can directly benefit from.

“Having Browsealoud available was helpful in our recent CQC inspection, providing an additional means of giving information to patients, families and carers in other formats and languages”, Ruth notes. “While we always provide these on request, Browsealoud allows instant access to information online. We’re also working with our services on how we can further use Browsealoud to support and inform our patients and communities in the future”.

Are your services transitioning online? If you would like further information about Browsealoud, contact TextHelp.

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