Paralympian helps to design accessible hospital emergency department

Louise Hunt Skelley PLY <i>(Image: Scott Media)</i>
Louise Hunt Skelley PLY (Image: Scott Media)

A former British wheelchair tennis player and Paralympian has advised the team behind the new emergency department at Great Western Hospital on creating an inclusive space.

Louise Hunt Skelley PLY, who lives in Swindon, enjoyed an illustrious career representing Great Britain in both the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics.

With 13 singles and 41 doubles titles, she is now sharing her expertise in inclusivity and accessibility with the Great Western Hospital team.

Her objective has been to ensure that the new emergency department at the hospital meets the highest standards of accessibility for all patients.

She said: "I am honoured to be part of this important project.

"It’s crucial that healthcare facilities are designed with inclusivity in mind from the outset."

The project has seen her provide advice and suggestions to aid in making the facility all-inclusive and particularly accessible for those with disabilities.

The hospital's decision to involve Ms Hunt Skelley so early in the planning stage is a change from the norm, with consultations with disabled users typically occurring after construction.

Natalie Lawrence, lead nurse of the Integrated Front Door Project, said: "The development of the new emergency department at the Great Western Hospital has benefitted greatly from the consultation and support Louise has provided to the project.

“Working with Louise has been valuable not only to informing this project but also my own insight both professionally and personally, and that will continue to influence me throughout my career.”

Recommendations made by Ms Hunt Skelley include establishing suitable spaces for wheelchair users, enabling patients to stay in their wheelchair or transfer to a chair as desired, creating ample room for wheelchair users in waiting cubicles, rooms, and toilets, and using inclusive language when users first approach the 'welcome' desk.

She said: "I’d like to praise the Great Western Hospital team for engaging with me and for their refreshing outlook and commitment to making this an inclusive and safe space for everyone, as everywhere should be.

"They are real role models in inclusion and what can be achieved with a little forward thinking."

Ms Lawrence added: "As a direct result of Louise’s involvement, we have amended aspects of the design to ensure greater inclusivity for wheelchair users in our emergency department.

"Beyond the design, Louise has also helped to inform the care and support we can provide for patients who are wheelchair users whilst they are in the emergency department."