International recognition for hospital speech language therapy team

Bianca Lopez, Annie Mansfield, Emma Shah, speech and language therapists at Weston General Hospital.

Bianca Lopez, Annie Mansfield, Emma Shah, speech and language therapists at Weston General Hospital. Picture: Weston General Hospital - Credit: Archant

Therapists at Weston General Hospital have received international recognition.

The speech and language therapy (SLT) team at Weston General Hospital has been working with Widgit Software to produce a critical care communication chart to support patients if they have difficulty communicating when they are unwell due to coronavirus.

The chart, which is a symbol board, was developed at the hospital in collaboration with Widgit, a company that specialises in products that use symbols to support text, helping people read, understand and communicate.

It can make communication possible even if the patient is being ventilated or has a tracheostomy but is alert.

The chart includes symbols for immediate care needs as well as messages the patient may want to pass to family members.

Patients simply point to items when they are either too fatigued or are unable to talk.

Patients who are unable to point can be helped by a member of their care team pointing to areas on the chart or lines in the chart and asking whether it is one of the messages there.

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Emma Shah, a speech and language therapist at the hospital who played an integral part in the development of the chart, said: “As news of the pandemic broke, it became clear to me that supporting communication was going to be crucial and I wanted to be able to offer communication boards for use in hospitals, and I wanted them to be available globally.

“I contacted Widgit and the partnership was born.

“Sue White from Widgit gave her time to the project for free, bringing her range of experience both with the initial chart and with the many revisions and translations.

“The current situation has made all staff and patients more aware of communication issues, including staff trying to communicate while wearing personal protective equipment.”

Sue added: “The expertise and professionalism of the team at Weston General Hospital has been invaluable in the development of this tool and we are thrilled to have been part of this project.

“We hope it will help healthcare workers and patients across the world at this very challenging time.”