Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Barnsley Assistive Technology Team expands and moves into new premises

The opening of Barnsley Hospital’s new Assistive Technology facility brought it home to me, very powerfully, just how far things have advanced recently in the provision of electronic assistive technology services, both in Yorkshire and the Humber and in England more generally.

In 2013, NHS England took over the national commissioning of ‘Complex Disability Equipment’ (which includes electronic assistive technology and prosthetics) as specialist services. Previously, commissioning had been carried out locally or regionally and the access that people with disabilities had to services – and the breadth and quality of the service provided -  was very post-code dependent. Complex Disability Equipment is one of the few areas of the NHS where substantial new money has been found to improve services, based on a recognition that services had previously been under-funded. As a result, the quality and reach of services across England are being expanded, and it is expected that access to these services, for people with severe physical disabilities, will improve and become more equitable across the country.

Barnsley’s Assistive Technology (AT) service is recognized nationally for its high quality services, as well as its research and innovation. It provides technology to individuals– both environmental control systems (for independent control of the home environment) and communication aids (which allow people without intelligible speech to communicate – think Stephen Hawking). The Barnsley AT service also works closely with CATCH to research and develop new types of assistive technology and AT service provision, and to evaluate their impact.

The Barnsley AT service has been asked by NHS England to expand its service to cover the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber. This expansion is now taking place and the team’s new facilities will house a greatly expanded multi-disciplinary team of skilled and dedicated staff.

I am proud to see what the team has achieved. I and my colleagues have been fighting for over 20 years to see high quality services set up across the country, so that people with disabilities are able to gain equitable access to the technology that makes such a difference to their lives. This is now happening and I’m delighted that the Barnsley AT service is, once again, taking the lead.

By Prof. Mark Hawley
Director of CATCH,

Honorary Consultant Scientist, Barnsley Hospital

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