Belfast Trust: Forging a path for inclusive working environments within NI health sector

Discover how the Belfast Trust supports 20,000 staff with inclusive software, Read&Write for Work.

Hear how Read&Write benefits staff with personal insights from Belfast Trust employee Deirdre Williamson - a Biomedical Scientist with a neurodiverse condition known as Marfan's Phenotype.


  • Read&Write has been effectively rolled out to the Trust's entire workforce of 20,000 employees
  • 90% of employees surveyed rated Read&Write Excellent / Very Good
  • One employee said, "If I had Read&Write when I was a child, I would be a doctor today. That was my dream that I never fulfilled..."

About Belfast Trust

Belfast Trust is the largest integrated health and social care Trust in the United Kingdom. They deliver integrated (co-ordinated and personalized) health and social care to around 340,000 citizens in Belfast. They also provide the majority of regional specialist services to all of Northern Ireland. Their 5 hospitals also make up the major teaching and training hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Why Read&Write?

Read&Write for Work is an easy-to-use toolbar that helps all staff to work with more confidence, accuracy and efficiency. It’s especially helpful for employees with hidden disabilities, cognitive differences, visual impairments, low literacy, and those with English as a second language. 

Belfast Trust is dedicated to safe, effective and compassionate care for not only their community, but their staff as well. They have a workforce of over 20,000 employees (full time and part time). Read&Write offered them an inclusive and versatile software to support their diverse workers. 

Belfast Trust’s Equality Manager, Estella Dorrian, explains;

At Belfast Trust we want all of our staff to succeed and reach their full potential. As part of our People Strategy, we proactively seek ways to improve the support that we can offer. We’ve seen the benefits that Read&Write can offer to those in our industry and beyond. It’s a software proven to make a difference, for all employees.

In 2018, Belfast Trust took the steps to secure Read&Write for all employees. This decision followed an initial pilot, where staff across the Trust had the chance to use and review the software. 90% of those surveyed rated the software Excellent / Very Good

Estella says;

“We’re proud to be the first Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland to offer Read&Write. It’ll help us to not only support our large workforce, but attract diverse talent too. 

“Read&Write is available to all students across Northern Ireland’s main universities - Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University. That means many of our prospective candidates may be using the software. The need for inclusive technology doesn’t stop when students graduate. By offering Read&Write, we can continue to offer graduates the support they’ve been used to as they enter the world of work. It also helps us to demonstrate our commitment to our people.”

At university I was able to access Read&Write, but could not do so within the Trust systems. I’m delighted to hear that the Trust has now gained a network wide license for Read&Write!

Beneficial for all

Recognising the benefits of Read&Write, Belfast Trust were keen to make sure all employees knew that it was available. As well as sharing how it could help them in their daily reading, writing and research tasks. This includes Doctors, nurses, administrative staff, carers, social workers and new recruits.

“Read&Write has the potential to support all staff” explains Estella. “It makes everyday literacy tasks simpler, quicker and more accurate. It helps to improve productivity and time management for all employees, across all divisions of the Trust. It was important to us that all our staff knew of the benefits it could offer.”

This involved making the software readily available, and spreading the word to their large workforce. 

As Equality Manager, Estella led this process. Below, she shares how they successfully rolled out the software to their workforce of 20,000.

Making available to all staff

Belfast Trust wanted to make it easy for all staff to access Read&Write in a non-judgemental and inclusive way. Estella explains; 

“We realize that individuals with disabilities don’t always feel confident to disclose their disability. In fact, at Belfast Trust, we know that there is significant under-reporting of disability amongst our staff (2%). By making Read&Write readily available to all, every employee can access the software with discretion. It also facilitates timely reasonable adjustments for staff. It removes the need to wait for a referral and recommendation from Occupational Health - which could take up to a year.”

Read&Write has the potential to support many of the employees that my team assesses. The easy and quick availability of the software means that those staff who struggle with reading and writing can access immediate support which can be life changing.

Belfast Trust employees are able to access Read&Write straight from their employee hub. It’s compatibility with all their internal systems means staff across all divisions can access it. This means that staff on-the-go, in roles that don’t involve heavy computer work, can still gain support from its features.

Sharing the benefits 

To help all staff understand how Read&Write could help them, Belfast Trust made it easy to understand the benefits. Within their employee hub, they included real-life examples to demonstrate how effective this support can be for all roles within Belfast Trust. From Blue light night shift workers proof-reading reports with Read&Write’s text-to-speech function. To Radiologists using Read&Write’s screen-masking feature to reduce eye strain during a 14 hour shift. 

Since introducing Read&Write to their employees, they’ve noticed additional benefits too;

“Read&Write helps us to make reasonable adjustments for our service users  - meaning it’s benefits go beyond the workforce. Our staff can use Read&Write to produce information in alternative formats for our service users, when required. For example, with the Audio Maker we can easily convert a written document into an MP3 audio file. Previously, we would have had to outsource this, which was often costly and time-consuming.” 

Spreading the word

Belfast Trust took action to spread the word about Read&Write to their large workforce. 

This involved:

  • Using flyers to promote availability
  • Displaying posters across various departments
  • Educating staff from the top down
  • Providing training and focus groups for staff wanting to learn more

Such activities helped them to take great strides towards a truly inclusive working environment. But what was most crucial to their success was making Read&Write part of the induction process. Speaking on this Estella says;

“We realised early on that making Read&Write part of the induction process was important. In fact, it’s a key part of our success story. New recruits are introduced to Read&Write at monthly induction events, and within personal induction periods. We’ve been noticing the benefits ever since. 

“For example, ICU staff have a 12 week induction period. Our recruits with Dyslexia found that Read&Write helped them to remove barriers. It worked as a confidence builder during this crucial learning stage.“

Alongside this, Belfast Trust also make sure that prospective employees know that Read&Write is available to their workforce. They do this by promoting the software at Health Fairs;

“Sharing Read&Write at health fairs and monthly inductions gives staff from all walks of life the opportunity to open up and explore how Read&Write works. It gives them the opportunity to discover how this support can improve their professional world.”

Employee stories

Today, many of Belfast Trust’s employees use Read&Write. From a Social Worker with ADHD using the software to improve concentration. To a Staff Nurse with dyslexia using the software to help her write reports. 

Speaking on the value of Read&Write, one Belfast Trust employee has shared her personal experience with us.

If I had Read&Write when I was a child, I would be a doctor today. That was my dream that I never fulfilled...

Deirdre Williamson is a Biomedical Scientist with the Belfast Trust. She has a neurodiverse condition called Marfan's Phenotype, and uses Read&Write to help her communicate effectively. 

In the video below, Deirdre shares how Read&Write supports her today, and why she wishes she had access to the software as a young adult.

More employee stories...

I work in ICU, and since the move to electronic notes the text to speech function massively improves our working day, allowing clinicians to record decisions very rapidly. We are always keen to improve workflows and productivity.

Discover Read&Write

Supports people who think, learn and work differently. Helps neurodiverse workforces to thrive.