A new initiative is raising the bar in supporting people with disabilities and healthcare conditions, such as dementia, who require cataract surgery.

Two healthcare workers at SpaMedica’s Newcastle-Under-Lyme hospital are behind the transformed approach, after observing first-hand how some of the most vulnerable NHS patients struggle with the journey of undergoing cataract surgery.

Registered nurse Kerry Harrison and senior healthcare technician Hannah Young made it their mission to tailor the hospital experience, identifying new ways of adapting practice to better address the challenges and anxieties faced by those who found it hard to read or understand the standard materials used to describe the surgical process.

Kerry Harrison

In her role at SpaMedica, Kerry accompanies NHS patients through the entire process, from admission to discharge.

She explains: “Although they go through the same procedure, we might have a patient with mobility problems, or they might have dementia, or a language barrier. What is critical is our commitment to treat everyone as an individual. It's patient-centred care.”

Unlike Kerry, Hannah Young, aged 24, had no previous ophthalmology experience when she joined the SpaMedica team. With a background as a carer in a specialist home for people with dementia, Hannah recognised there was an opportunity to go above and beyond, by tailoring support for patients who are more vulnerable.

Hannah Young

Hannah Young

Hannah said: “Although there was some specialised care in place, for me, based on my background and also my personal experience - my sister is disabled - I felt there was even more that could be done.”

As part of the initiative, Hannah and Kerry have designed picture books, describing the patient journey from pre-assessment, to surgery, to post-op care, using photographs taken around the hospital.

“We had a patient with disabilities visit us soon after we made these books and he confided that he hadn't slept for two days because he was so worried about coming,” says Hannah.

“He told us that he liked to know what was going on, but he didn't always understand what was happening. By seeing it for himself in this picture book, it helped him to relax.”

Alongside picture books, Kerry and Hannah have made personalised videos to suit patients.

For one patient, Kerry explains: “We developed a personalised video, because she loved to watch television. In it we described post-operative care by recreating the act of taking off her eye patch and how to administer eye drops.”

Official versions of Hannah and Kerry’s picture books have now been produced and distributed to all SpaMedica hospitals.

“We didn’t expect it to go around the entire business,” adds Hannah. “I think that’s what I love most about working here. It’s the recognition this project has had. It’s making such a difference to patients.”