Hidden disabilities scheme launched at The Vic

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals has signed up to the Hidden Disabilities “Sunflower Scheme” to offer additional support to patients whose disability may not be visible.

Blue Skies Hospitals Fund provided £4,810 worth of funding to purchase lanyards, magnets and wristbands to kick-start the scheme across the Trust.

The scheme has been introduced in airports, councils and supermarkets throughout the country, but The Vic is the first NHS trust in the Northwest to introduce it.

Emergency Department Trainee Assistant Practitioner, Sophie Jones, initiated the conversation after seeing the success of a flagging system for patients with dementia.

She said: “My idea came originally from the dementia butterfly and because they’ve got that marker for people to recognise that they need further support, I thought it’d be a good idea for patients with learning difficulties to have a similar thing.”

She raised the idea with Eleanor Walsh, Head of Patient Experience through the Learning Disability Guide meetings at The Vic, to put it into practise and increase awareness of patients with hidden disabilities.

Eleanor explains that the Sunflower Scheme provides a visual cue to staff so they know which patients may need extra support.

“Anyone who has a learning difficulty, autism, severe anxiety or a visual or physical impairment which may not appear obvious, can opt in and visibly show staff in a discreet way that they may need additional support.

“They may not need any help but, additionally if they do, the scheme enables our staff members to go up to them and say that they’ve noted the lanyard, is there any extra support you may need today. It’s really going to improve the way we communicate with people who have a hidden disability and make reasonable adjustments to provide them with the best experience.”

The scheme sets out clear guidelines for staff to follow when spotting a patient with a sunflower lanyard or wristband.

Posters are prominently displayed around all central reception desks in hospitals and health centres within the Trust to show the Hidden Disability products are readily available.

They can also be ordered via the Patient Experience Department by e-mailing: bfwh.patientexperience@nhs.net