Hannah's story: Living with a hearing impairment

Hi all. My name is Hannah, and I work in the Programme and Change Management Team. In light of Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May 2019), I have been asked to share...

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New film showcases Health Visiting Service

With the help of local mums, dads and their children, Gloucestershire Care Services has produced a short film explaining What the Health Visiting Service Does. Featuring our very own Health Visiting...

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Hannah Millar
Hi all. My name is Hannah, and I work in the Programme and Change Management Team. In light of Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May 2019), I have been asked to share my own experiences as a deaf individual. 

I was born with a ‘severe-to-profound’ hearing impairment, with around 90 per cent hearing loss. To communicate I rely on lip reading and a hearing aid. I consider myself very lucky, as I have always had a great support system - from peripatetic teachers to great friends and, most of all, my brilliant parents/family. But, being ‘deaf in a hearing world’ does have its challenges and, despite the availability of different equipment and support, I’ve always found the thing that makes the biggest difference is whether or not somebody is 'deaf aware'.

Deafness is an invisible disability, and this is a challenge in itself. Just because a deaf individual ‘talks OK' or ‘seems like they know what’s happening’, doesn’t mean they do. In my own experience, lip reading is very energy consuming, especially in group and work environments. This means a lot of information can be lost on me. Workwise this doesn’t just apply to meetings, but also socially - things like ‘office banter’ or small talk.

Having had conversations with other deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, I know this is a common occurrence. Quite often people have been labelled as ‘rude’, ‘disengaged’ or ‘incompetent’, simply because they have been quiet and not contributed to a discussion, or have said something wrong/totally unrelated. In reality, it’s usually because they haven’t heard what’s going on and may feel too embarrassed to say anything - or feel it’s ‘easier’ not to. Someone being 'deaf aware' and having the necessary knowledge and understanding makes a real difference - particularly in terms of making a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual feel more comfortable and confident!

I think this week is also a perfect opportunity to start the conversation about how we can help deaf people in terms of their healthcare. Did you know that the deaf community has a lower life expectancy, due to inaccessibility of healthcare services? Why in a world where technology is such a big part of our lives and advancements are made every day, are so many services still without the appropriate equipment and support to aid the deaf community?

Did you know, for instance, that due to a lack of appropriate communication methods in place, many deaf people often have to travel in person to their GP surgery, simply to make an appointment in person? Once there, they also have the added challenge of communicating their concerns and requirements to the people who work there.

Have you considered that English may not be a deaf/BSL user’s first language? That reading and writing is more difficult for them, and that they may not understand online information or that which is sent to them? Why are professional BSL interpreters not used enough? Are you aware that there is a big difference between having a friend/family member interpreting and having a professional interpreter in place? Deaf individuals too often miss out on crucial information about their health because the support isn’t in place and, shockingly, handwritten notes are still being used too often. Don’t members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community deserve to receive information fully and in the same compassionate way as others? We can make a difference!

To conclude, I can’t speak for every deaf or hard-of-hearing person, and that’s really important to remember, because deafness is so varied. Please just take the time to find out what works for that particular person. There’s also a lot of information out there, so try and utilise Gloucestershire Deaf Association’s presence at EJC this week.

Additionally, I’m always happy to talk, so if you have any questions or would just like to chat, please do come and see me. And remember to take care of your own ears!

Baby HubWith the help of local mums, dads and their children, Gloucestershire Care Services has produced a short film explaining What the Health Visiting Service Does.

Featuring our very own Health Visiting Team, Community Nursery Nurses and Public Health Nurses, the film talks about the services available to families in Gloucestershire; from pregnancy and preparing for parenthood, through to breastfeeding, sleep, child development, parenting, illness, immunisation and family mental health.

It also offers an insight into the professional knowledge and expertise available to families seeking help and advice with positive touch, infant feeding, sleep, food, diet and exercise and dental health.

A big thank you to the mums, dads and children who kindly allowed us to film them at one of our New Baby New Life Hubs.

To view the film visit the About the Health Visiting Service page on the website here.

GCC 2525 Good Mum Bad Mum

First in Healthy Family Series now online

Let's Talk Pregnancy is the first podcast in the seven-part Healthy Family Series - a collaboration between CheltenhamMaman and One Gloucestershire.

These monthly podcasts feature local healthcare professionals, including midwives, health visitors and nursery nurses, talking about parenthood and offering advice to parents on how to be healthy themselves, as well as raise healthy children.

Over the next few months these special episodes will take parents through key stages in parenthood, starting with the very first part of every parenting journey – pregnancy.

Episode two, which airs next month, features GCS Health Visitor and Lactation Lead, Emma Cronin-Preece.

  • Episode 1: Let's Talk Pregnancy
    To listen to Let's Talk Pregnancy - the first podcast in the Healthy Family Series - click here.

  • Episode 2: The Fourth Trimester
    To listen to The Fourth Trimester - the second podcast in the Healthy Family Series - click here.

To receive notifications as each monthly episode goes online, subscribe via the CheltenhamMaman website.


The Insider magazine provides an insight into life on the wards of our community hospitals, as well as a glimpse of the day-to-day goings on with our community teams.

Sara Force

Among the hundreds of thousands of runners jostling at the starting line of the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 28 April this year will be Gloucestershire Care Services’ very own Sara Force.

Specialist Nurse for Safeguarding Children, Sara will be running the 26.2-mile route in aid of Maggie's, Cheltenham – incidentally, the Trust’s chosen Charity of the Year for 2019.

Maggie’s holds a very special place in Sara’s heart. The centre, in College Baths Road, Cheltenham, which offers free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer, their families and friends, proved an “oasis” for Sara and her husband Steve following the devastating news in December 2015 that he had terminal bowel cancer.

“Maggie’s and the wonderful staff and volunteers who worked there became our lifeline over the coming months,” says Sara.

“Every gruelling chemo was softened by a cup of tea and some kind words at Maggie’s. They were always there for both of us in our darkest days. When hope ran out, they gave us space to cry and the wonderful counsellor helped Steve to prepare his goodbyes by writing letters to our sons James and Matt.

“This is why I am running the London Marathon for Maggie’s. I could have chosen a charity with a less ambitious fundraising target, but Maggie’s is a place I would want everyone to have access to if ever they were in this situation.”

Sara has hosted a number of events to help raise money for the Cheltenham charity, including a cake sale at Kingsway Parkrun, a ‘Paint Your Own Pottery’ session at Dixie Dot Crafts and an autumn fayre at Gloucester Farmers Club. These events, coupled with pledges received via Sara’s Virgin Money Giving page, have realised an incredible £3,508.24 to date – £3,810.49 with Gift Aid.

Sara runs with Angels Running Club – the only affiliated female running club in Gloucester.  “They have been a huge support to me over the past few years,” she says.

“I am also a member of Widowed and Young (WAY), which supports people who are widowed under the age of 50. We have set up an informal running group and regularly do parkrun together – a fellow member of WAY is also running the London Marathon this year.”

Sara, who has been running for about 17 years, has lost count of the number of running events she has taken part in. “There are too many to remember really,” she laughs. “The highlights though have to be the Edinburgh Marathon, which I ran in 2009, and a 1,000 mile challenge in which I participated in 2015 - the year before Steve became ill - for which I ran 1,000 miles in a year. That year I ran three half marathons - Forest of Dean, Tewkesbury and Stroud.

“In 2016, when Steve was ill, I ran the Race for Life with a group of Steve’s colleagues from GRH (he was a nurse in Recovery). The team was called Steve’s Angels (see picture below)."

Steves Angels

Sara has embarked on a strict 16-week training regime in preparation for the London Marathon. “I run four times a week, with a long run on Sundays,” she says.

“I’m currently up to 11 miles on the long run. Over the next few weeks I will be doing longer runs of 12 miles, 14 miles and 16 miles; then I’m taking part in the Bath Half Marathon on 17 March. Two weeks after that I will be doing a 20-mile preparation race.

“I also do strength training twice a week and yoga once a week.”

To read Sarah’s story, or make an online donation via her Virgin Money Giving page, click here.

Team picture
The new Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit is staffed by a multidisciplinary team

This week saw the opening of the Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Inpatient Unit at Vale Community Hospital, Dursley.

The purpose of the new unit, located within Peak View Ward, is to bridge the current gap in post-stroke care in Gloucestershire; giving people who have suffered a stroke maximum opportunity to recover and adapt in the best possible environment. Specialist rehabilitation is widely recognised as an essential part of recovery after stroke – providing significant health and social care benefits for patients over the longer term.

The Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Unit is there for patients who no longer need specialist medical care in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH), but still require stroke rehabilitation that cannot be delivered at home.

The unit, which has 14 specialist stroke beds and six general rehabilitation beds, is staffed by a multidisciplinary team including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation assistants and hotel services. A psychologist will be joining the team soon.

Professional Head of Adult Physiotherapy in Gloucestershire Care Services, Sarah Morton, said: “The Specialist Stroke Rehabilitation Unit came about following the findings of an NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group review, which examined the stroke rehabilitation pathways in Gloucestershire.

“The report concluded that although there were lots of elements of really good service provision within the county, there wasn’t a seamless pathway for stroke rehabilitation. The Stroke Unit at The Vale is a centralised, co-ordinated unit where we can focus our resources.

“The development of this unit has been a result of collaborative partnership working between commissioners and clinicians from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, community organisations, patient representatives and a range of key stakeholders.

“By providing a community bed-based service here at Vale Community Hospital, we aim to continue the rehabilitation journey for patients following a stroke in a suitable, fit-for-purpose environment.

“When patients no longer need inpatient specialist stroke rehabilitation, and if it is safe and effective for them to have rehabilitation in their own home, they will receive ongoing support from community stroke specialist nurses or the Early Supported Discharge (ESD) community team, including community stroke specialist nurses, specialist therapists and rehabilitation assistants.”

The opening of the new unit at Vale Community Hospital means Gloucestershire has its own dedicated community stroke rehabilitation service for the first time, in line with national recommendations for therapy provision following a stroke.
Cashes 1
Senior Sister Janette Thomas (far left) and her nursing team in Stroud Hospital’s newly-refurbished Cashes Green Ward

Stroud General Hospital’s Cashes Green Ward has reopened having undergone four months of major refurbishment. The ambitious renovation programme has seen the ward undergo a major upgrade, including the introduction of additional en suite bedrooms and bays, a day room and state-of-the-art facilities.

The six-figure renovation programme, led by colleagues from Stroud General and Cirencester hospitals, was made possible thanks to the generous support of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends, who donated a staggering £351,000 towards the works.

Candace Plouffe, Chief Operating Officer for Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust, which manages Stroud General Hospital, said: “These works are hugely important and demonstrate the Trust’s continued commitment to investing in Stroud General Hospital and the care of its patients.

“This is one of our older buildings, but this refit will now allow us to offer the latest facilities in Cashes Green Ward, enabling us to provide the best possible care and treatment to patients.”

The 22-bed ward, which closed in July this year to allow the refurbishment works to get under way, boasts six side rooms, each with their own shower facilities, and four en suite four-bed bays.

Senior Sister Janette Thomas said: “The nursing staff and patients are absolutely thrilled with this fantastic new state-of-the-art ward. It is dementia friendly, with colour-co-ordinated décor designed to help patients find their way around the ward and identify which is their room or bay and where the bathrooms and facilities are.

“We now have a dedicated office, which we didn’t have before, a day room, and the design and layout of the ward, which is mixed sex, offers greater flexibility to accommodate both male and female patients."

During its four-month closure, patients and staff were transferred to a temporary ward at Cirencester Hospital.

“We would like to thank the Cashes Green Ward staff for their positive approach to continuing to deliver care while relocated some distance away in Cirencester, the Cirencester staff for how welcoming they have been to colleagues, the Stroud housekeeping team for all their hard work to get the ward spick and span in time to reopen the ward, and Estates colleagues for leading the delivery of this significant project,” said Janette.

“But none of this would have been possible without the enormous generosity of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends, who have been hugely supportive in our investment in the hospital, and instrumental in bringing this major renovation project to fruition.”

Dr Roma Walker, Chair of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends, added: “The contribution of £351,000 by Stroud Hospitals League of Friends to Cashes Green Ward has lifted it from being a standard refurbishment to one that is state-of-the art.

“In addition to other elements, the donation has funded en suite facilities and specialist bathrooms which not only provide privacy, dignity and wellbeing for patients, but are also an important factor for infection control.

“We are grateful to all those who donate funds to us so that we can spend it wisely to enhance the two Stroud hospitals and other local healthcare facilities. So a massive thank you to the community of Stroud and surrounding area.”

North Cotswolds, Cirencester and Tewkesbury community hospitals each received a visit from a 'very special guest' in the run-up to Christmas.IMG 5664

Twelve-year-old alpaca, Cosmo, dressed in his favourite Christmas outfit, popped in to cheer up the patients, put a smile on the faces of the staff and generally spread a little festive cheer.

Cosmo was brought in to the hospitals by his owner and trainer, Ginnie Meakin, from Cotswold Vale Alpacas, near Evesham, because of his “innate ability to cheer people up and make them smile".

"It’s a well-known fact that animals are great therapy; relieving stress and giving people the feel-good factor. Cosmo brightens people’s days,” said Ginnie.

"I do think he likes all the attention - he certainly appears to pose for the cameras. He’s an unusual alpaca - he’s calm and quietly confident.

“Right from an early stage I realised he was special and had a kind and gentle nature. He doesn’t get worried or spook easily, which makes him perfect for interacting with members of the public.”

On each hospital visit Cosmo appeared in his element as he strutted around the wards, greeting patients and staff.

A patient at Tewkesbury Hospital, Rose Miller, said: "He’s out of this world – he’s beautiful and gorgeous. I would love to put my arms around him and give him a cuddle."

Squeals of excitement followed Cosmo during his visits. He has been trained from an early age to be walked and handled. He is also very adept at using a lift and is even able to alert his handler when he needs to go to the toilet.

Linda Edwards, Matron at Cirencester Hospital, said: “I have never had such a wonderful afternoon in the whole of my career. The patients and staff absolutely loved Cosmo and the reaction, particularly from patients with dementia and EOL, was so heart-warming and brought tears to my eyes - and Cosmo was so well behaved.”

"We have received many visits to our smallholding, from people who are finding life a strain emotionally, people suffering with stress and depression, and adults and children who have learning difficulties,” said Ginnie.

"We have found that meeting and being with the alpacas is so therapeutic; particularly to our visitors who have autism. They generally arrive apprehensive, but soon start to relax and interact with the alpacas.

"It is amazing to see the smiles on people’s faces when they meet Cosmo - especially the elderly people who are in hospital and missing their own pets. 

Pictured: Cirencester Hospital Matron Linda Edwards with Cosmo the alpaca.