Macclesfield District General Hospital has become the first hospital in the country to have key wards, including A&E, awarded Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society.
The prestigious status is awarded by the National Autistic Society to organisations where staff have a good working knowledge of methods and approaches which produce positive outcomes for autistic people. The accreditation, which the hospital has been working towards since 2014, follows a number of other autism-related awards for the hospital and shows that support for autistic people and their families and carers is effective and person-centred.
The National Autistic Society is calling on other hospitals across the country to work with them and become more accessible for autistic children and adults.
The accredited areas are Accident and Emergency, Outpatients, the Children's Ward, Pre-op assessment, Day Case, Theatres, surgical wards, Dental and Customer Care. In its feedback, the National Autistic Society said it was especially impressed with the following:
- The hospitals Autism Link' scheme which provides autistic patients with a named and specially-trained contact in each hospital department
- The embedding of 'reasonable adjustments' - alterations to create better experiences for autistic patients - into working practice, and the clear systems and processes in place that ensure hospital staff can help autistic patients have smooth transitions.
- Evidence of patient satisfaction, collected from hospital departments, indicating autistic patients are very happy with the services and support provided.
Assessors from the National Autistic Society also praised the information available to autistic patients on the trust's website, commented positively on how patient stories are used to inform practice and praised the hospital for engaging with the wider autism community to inform learning and development.
Staff at Macclesfield have also spent several years working alongside the National Autistic Society to develop a framework of best practice that other hospitals can now follow to help develop services that meet the needs of autistic patients, their families and carers.
Kath Senior, the trust's Director of Nursing and Quality, said: "We are absolutely delighted to receive this accreditation, which shows our autistic patients and their families and carers that they can use our services with confidence.
"I am really proud of the enthusiasm shown by staff across the organisation for making our services as autism-friendly as possible and we look forward to working with other trusts to pass on what we have learnt and help them embed autism-friendly practices."
Christine Flintoft-Smith, Head of Accreditation at the National Autistic Society, said: "Everyone at Macclesfield General Hospital should be exceptionally proud of the achievement.
"Their commitment to continually improving is inspirational. We're grateful to the team for helping us over the past few years to adapt our Autism Accreditation programme so that is can be used to assess work in hospitals.
"We hope to work with other hospitals in the coming months and years and help them become more accessible for autistic children and adults in their area."
The accreditation follows several other high-profile autism-related awards for the hospital, which became the first of its kind to be awarded the National Autistic Society's Autism Access Award in 2014 and also won the National Autistic Society's Professionals Award for Outstanding Health Services two years later.
There are around 700,00 autistic people in the UK. Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how a person communicates and interacts with the world. Being autistic can also mean that you're under or oversensitive to sounds, touch, taste, smells light and colours. This can make a visit to the unfamiliar and sometimes busy and unpredictable environment of a hospital incredibly challenging and distressing.
To make Macclesfield Hospital more accessible, the trust took various steps, including the creation of an autism-friendly 'quiet route' into the hospital, which gives full access to the building but with fewer distractions and people along the way, and introduction of modules in autism awareness to mandatory training for the hospital's clinical staff.