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Healthy understanding: Read&Write helps NELFT staff express themselves

NELFT has given all its employees access to Read&Write, offering quick, convenient access to its suite of literacy support tools

NELFT NHS Foundation Trust (North East London NHS Foundation Trust) provides an extensive range of integrated community and mental health services for people living in four outer London boroughs and Barnet, Essex and Kent. With an annual budget of £355 million, the Trust offers care and treatment for a population of more than 4 million. It employs approximately 6,000 staff who work across 210 bases in London, Essex, Kent and Medway.

Since 2017 NELFT has given all its employees access to Read&Write, offering quick, convenient access to its suite of literacy support tools on PCs and laptops via an easy-to-use toolbar.

Outcomes

  • Read&Write is supporting staff with literacy challenges, such as those with dyslexia
  • It's helping employees to work faster, saving time proof-reading lengthy documents
  • And, it's supporting NELFT in their commitment to an inclusive workplace

The benefit

As Equality and Diversity Assistant Manager Michael Beackon explains, licensing Read&Write across the Trust allows staff to use it whenever they need without feeling ‘different’: “From an accessibility perspective, we want all our employees to feel that they’re treated equally. All the great benefits of Read&Write are there for everybody.”

One of the Trust’s Read&Write ‘super users’ is Senior Occupational Therapist Marie-Antoinette Ferreira-Pursley. As well as using it extensively in her own daily work, she also trains other members of staff to familiarise them with Read&Write’s versatile features.

“I really struggled with writing tasks when I was younger,” says Marie-Antoinette. “There was that classic thing of words dancing around on paper in front of your eyes. It wasn’t picked up at school, but when I went to study for my degree in Occupational Therapy at Northampton University it was my tutor who suggested there might be something else going on.

“So when I was screened for dyslexia it all suddenly clicked into place. At last I understood why I had problems with processing, storing and recalling information – and why it was getting in the way of writing to the standard I needed for my studies”.

"From an accessibility perspective, we want all our employees to feel that they’re treated equally. All the great benefits of Read&Write are there for everybody.”

Power of productivity

While she spends a lot of her working time in the community, Marie-Antoinette relies on Read&Write while she’s catching up on paperwork in the office.

“It makes my life so much simpler in lots of different ways. For example I use the screen masking function to stop words dancing around – that’s really fantastic. Another thing I really like using is the read-aloud feature that lets me hear what I’ve written: that way I can easily pick up any mistakes in my own work… and I also use it to read long documents.”

As Marie-Antoinette notes, Read&Write has had a major positive impact on her efficiency and wellbeing in the workplace: “I’m so much less stressed and anxious now. I couldn’t do my job without it.”

“Read&Write saves me a lot of time if I’m writing a long document or composing a sensitive email. I can listen to what I’ve written read aloud, helping me hear my own mistakes. That really helps me proof-read thoroughly before it goes out"

The gift of time

Another enthusiastic Read&Write user is Gemma Strawford, Pathway Lead Specialist in NELFT’s Learning Disabilities team. Working with children across Essex, her job entails lengthy write-ups of field assessments, observations and recommendations for young people under her care. Like Marie-Antoinette, Gemma’s own dyslexia was diagnosed while she was studying at university.

“I often found myself staring at the letters of a familiar word that would look jumbled up. The wrong words would keep coming out while I was writing – it was a real challenge structuring long sentences, and that was slowing me down.”

“Read&Write saves me a lot of time if I’m writing a long document or composing a sensitive email. I can listen to what I’ve written read aloud, helping me hear my own mistakes. That really helps me proof-read thoroughly before it goes out.”

As a student Gemma developed various coping techniques to work around her dyslexia. But when she joined NELFT she quickly found that Read&Write had a transformative effect on her confidence to tackle tough literacy challenges.

As well as reading her own documents, Gemma uses Read&Write’s PDF reader to hear lengthy reports from other services and community partners. She also uses Read&Write’s dictionary function to help her recognise unfamiliar looking words: “it’s quicker and easier than Googling stuff.”

Read&Write’s screen masking function helps Gemma tame those dancing on-screen words: “I used to have a screen overlay on my laptop, but the plastic gradually got more scratched and foggy. Read&Write lets me choose a masking colour that makes words much clearer and easier to read – I’ve picked magenta.”

The support to thrive 

Recognising the power of its neurodiverse workforce, NELFT’s commitment to Read&Write helps ensure that every member of staff is fully supported and confident in delivering their workplace responsibilities.

Reflecting the Trust’s wider commitment to diversity and inclusion, NELFT has also added speech, reading and translation support to its own website nelft.nhs.uk. They have made this available with the ReachDeck Toolbar from Texthelp. It's helping them to ensures that members of the community can readily access health services and information online, regardless of any literacy or neurodiverse challenges

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