In just one year, Nottingham University Hospitals has transformed its disappointing relationship with visually-impaired patients into one of involvement, access and success. Chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals Trust Peter Homa explains the lessons learned - and the changes being made as a result.

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago we found ourselves in the media spotlight - for the wrong reasons. The Royal National Institute for the Blind’s national Losing Patients campaign highlighted that our trust, Nottingham University Hospitals, was not providing enough accessible information for patients. Campaigners expressed their disappointment.

Improving access to information, whether leaflets, appointment letters or on websites, has never been more important. We know this from the Information Revolution and Greater Choice and Control consultation documents published following the Liberating the NHS white paper and the recent guidance on producing information for patients with learning disabilities, for example.

This initially negative experience quickly became a positive. Many years ago my mentor sagely advised me that the impact of learning from things that go wrong should always be greater than the impact of whatever has gone wrong. This is a valuable challenge and is what we always strive to do at our trust.

Early last year, the visually impaired patient partnership involvement group formed to enable the trust to develop better policies and decisions to directly benefit patients with visual impairment. The results in so short a time are remarkable.

The group has made some important improvements to information materials, consent forms, medicines labelling and correspondence. All of our main patient information is now provided in audio, Braille and large print.

A trust-wide project is improving maps and signs, which helps all patients find their way round our hospitals.

We have an ambitious whole hospital transformation programme called Better for You to improve safety, quality, productivity and cost.

The patient involvement group is directly involved and engaged in improving the ophthalmology surgical pathway as part of the programme. The Better for You ophthalmology project has been running since May last year and is developing improvements at every stage from referral through to discharge, reducing inefficiency and enabling better outcomes and reduced risk.

Patients are closely involved in guiding our Better for You work and this is delivering real results. The daughter of one patient commented: “Throughout a period [of inpatient care], I observed a number of staff interacting with my father and other patients on the ophthalmology ward. We visited and phoned extensively, each interaction was greeted with a smile, nothing was too much to ask and the levels of communication and information shared exemplary. My father was treated with empathy and his emotional, physical and psychological needs attended to with courtesy and compassion.”

I am delighted the involvement group was nominated in two categories in a trust event which recognises staff and volunteers.

I am speaking at a Losing Patients event in Nottingham to celebrate this successful relationship between the trust and visually impaired patients. We will be highlighted as a trust now doing exceptionally well in this area. We will build on this momentum, working with our patients, and the learning has been extended to other aspects of our work.