Paralympian advises on inclusive spaces for new Great Western Hospital department

By Nick Batten on 29 May, 2024

Former British wheelchair tennis player and Paralympian Louise Hunt Skelley PLY has advised the team behind the new emergency department at Great Western Hospital on creating inclusive spaces.

Louise, who lives in Swindon, enjoyed a successful tennis career for many years – and before that was a leading wheelchair racer. She represented Great Britain in tennis at both the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics, and won 13 singles and 41 doubles titles, with a career-high ranking of 10. 

In her recent role as consultant for Great Western Hospital, Louise provided feedback and guidance to ensure the facility is inclusive and accessible for all users, particularly those with disabilities.

Louise said, “I am honoured to be part of this important project. It’s crucial that healthcare facilities are designed with inclusivity in mind from the outset. My goal is to ensure that the new emergency department at Great Western Hospital meets the highest standards of accessibility for all patients.”

Great Western Hospital’s decision to engage Louise at this early stage is a notable change from the norm, where feedback from disabled users is often sought post-construction. This proactive approach not only sets a precedent for other healthcare institutions but also showcases the significant contributions that consultants like Louise can make in various industries.

Natalie Lawrence, Lead Nurse of the Integrated Front Door Project, said, “The development of the new Emergency Department at the Great Western Hospital has benefitted greatly from the consultation and support Louise has provided to the project.

“Working with Louise has been valuable not only to informing this project but also my own insight both professionally and personally, and that will continue to influence me throughout my career.”

Louise’s involvement is a testament to her growing influence as a consultant in the field of inclusivity and accessibility. Her work with Great Western Hospital highlights the vital role that people with disabilities can play in planning and development.

She said, “I’d like to praise the GWH team for engaging with me and for their refreshing outlook and commitment to making this an inclusive and safe space for everyone, as everywhere should be. They are real role models in inclusion and what can be achieved with a little forward thinking.”

Louise advised on several aspects of the project including ensuring there were designated and appropriate spaces/areas for wheelchair users in the waiting area; Advice and support around waiting cubicles, rooms and toilets; And advising on the appropriate use of language and communication when people with disabilities first approach the ‘welcome’ desk.

Natalie added, “As a direct result of Louise’s involvement, we have amended aspects of the design to ensure greater inclusivity for wheelchair users in our Emergency Department. Beyond the design, Louise has also helped to inform the care and support we can provide for patients who are wheelchair users whilst they are in the Emergency Department.”

Louise’s consultancy services are available to other businesses and organisations looking to enhance their inclusivity practices.

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Pictured above: Louise Hunt Skelley PLY who has been consulted about creating an inclusive space at the Great Western Hospital’s new emergency department (Barbara Leatham Photography)