"Finding your way around the hospital"

About: The Great Western Hospital / Accident and emergency The Great Western Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as a relative),

Recently I had cause to visit my bother at the Great Western Hospital Swindon. My brother was transferred between two wards whilst there, and had trips to the X ray department.

On one occasion we found the signs hard to follow and must have missed some, and ended up quite a way from where we should have been, which to myself was not a big ordeal, but for my brother's wife (using a walking stick because of a stroke a year or so ago) it was, and she began to get fatigued.

When we visited the hospital the next time we needed to find another department where my brother currently was having treatment and asked for directions at the reception desk. The lady there was very helpful, but then I happened to ask why the hospital did not use the same very effective method that was used at the previously NHS built Princess Margaret's Hospital, prior to its demolition, by using coloured lines and foot imprints on the floor as a guide, such as a yellow line for X-ray, a red one for A&E, blue for outpatients etc.

The lady smiled and replied, because we don't own the hospital (meaning it was PFI built) we are not allowed to stick anything on the floors, and in fact we even need to get permission to stick any notices on the wall. I smiled back at her and said, oh well talk about making things easy as we appear to have gone backward in time, instead of forwards.

We eventually ended up in the correct department, although more by sheer luck than judgement I think. It was a splendid system that worked so very well, for so many years at the Princess Margaret's Hospital. Has red tape or some sort of dogma prevented it being adopted? As it can't surely be the result of cost.

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Response from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust We are preparing to make a change

Thank you for your most recent feedback about signage.

It is something we are looking to improve over the next 12 months to make it as easy as possible for people to navigate around the hospital.

The 'lines and foot imprints' on the floor which were used in the previous hospital were considered at the time of opening the GWH but one of the reasons why they weren't adopted was because we wanted a culture within the hospital where any member of staff would be happy to provide directions to a patient or visitor if asked. We also make use of a team of dedicated 'way finder' volunteers around the building to help direct, and in some cases, take visitors to where they need to go to - you will see many of these volunteers around the hospital in their green polo T-shirts so if you need directions please ask them or any other member of staff and they will be happy to help.

We feel this provides a much more personal and helpful service but recognise that improved signage on some corridors is needed and will be addressed this year.

Thank you for taking the time to feedback.

Update posted by sovietski (a relative)

Thank you for your response, it is much appreciated.

I am pleased that you have said that you will be looking at improvements to the signage around the GWH corridors within the next twelve months, which is possibly long overdue as I have heard others comment about the difficulty in finding ones way around.

With reference to our case that I highlighted, we did not notice any of the 'way finder' volunteers complete with their green polo T-shirts at the time, and in any case we would have been oblivious to their function, and thus their presence. We did however ask a member of staff for directions who was quite helpful, but at the same time referred us to the signs to follow, which again we missed.

Whilst I agree that a personal and helpful service is good, I still feel that the system of coloured lines and coloured foot prints on the floor at the Princess Margaret's Hospital was an excellent system, and could be used with great effect to supplement the existing service, especially when there are no staff or volunteers in the vicinity to ask.

This would provide a good back up system whilst alleviating the need for patients to seek help from volunteers, or indeed members of staff that may be involved with much more pressing problems. Not only could be provided with minimum cost, but would prove extremely popular as was the case at the PMH, unless there is some other reason why it is felt that it is not an option, such as not being permissible in a PFI built hospital building, which goes back to what I was originally told at the reception desk.

However I really hope that this would not be a reason?

Response from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Hi - No, it's nothing to do with being a PFI - we are able to place things on floors if necessary.

One factor to bear in mind also is people with visual impairments or who are colour blind wouldn't find this sort of colour coded floor markings useful so it isn't something we've chosen to pursue here.

I'll feedback to the Volunteer Service about the visibility of the Way Finders and we'll be working on improvements to signage in the year ahead.

Thanks again for posting.