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Help stop choking

Help Stop Choking is an accessible DVD based on a service user’s experience to help increase awareness of choking, promote safe eating strategies and reduce avoidable mortality and adverse harm effects from choking for people with a learning disability. Choking has been identified as one of the leading causes of preventable death in people with a learning disability. John, a service user, hopes that by sharing his story he can improve user experience and help other people reduce their risk of choking. Watch the clip below for more information about the project.

At what level did the PPI take place?

  • One to one;
  • Service development/delivery;
  • Commissioning/policy.

PPI helped the project to

  • Improve efficiency of a service;
  • Improve quality;
  • Improve safety.


Anyone can accidentally choke at any time. The risk of choking increases when someone is eating or drinking. People with swallowing difficulties or a learning disability have a further increased risk of choking (Thacker, 2007). Every year, people with a learning disability die from choking while eating or drinking which could be prevented (Glover, 2010).

Aim of involvement

John is a service user with a learning disability, cerebral palsy and swallowing difficulties who experienced a number of choking events. He was referred to speech and language therapy and following a swallowing assessment received direct therapy to help him reduce his risk of choking. John felt that his positive experience of the speech and language therapy service saved his life. He was inspired to share his successful story to help other people reduce their risk of choking.

Listening to John talk about his experience and what he learned brings the subject of choking to a human level. Innovation is not just around technology, it can be better ways of doing things. John could see that other service users would be safer if they knew about choking and it could help save to save lives. The project was awarded money by the Public Health Agency (PHA) for a Personal and Public Involvement (PPI) project to develop John’s story into an educational DVD resource.

The DVD is an accessible learning resource for people with a learning disability, their carers and staff. It helped people to know and understand about choking and how to reduce the risk of choking. The DVD includes collaborative working across professionals who share their perspective on reducing the risk of choking. This includes a speech and language therapist, community nurse, day care worker, health improvement officer for oral health, and a social worker.

Outcomes due to involvement

John was presented with one of the top prizes at the 2014 Patient Safety and Care Awards in London under the category Preventing Avoidable Harm. Presenting the award, the judges said that this DVD should be used by all learning disability services across the UK as core training for both staff and service users. Lessons within the DVD are broad and we hope will have appeal across the health sector. This project was awarded money from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Health Improvement Consortium to develop the Help Stop Choking website and help stop choking mobile app as a digital solution to make the DVD and resources available to a wide audience.

As well as the accessible DVD, we produced an easy read information book, activities, posters and a choking awareness campaign song and music video. You can watch and share the song Help Stop Choking on the website and on YouTube.

We ran a pilot project to assess the ease of understanding and accessibility of the DVD and resources. The workshops were conducted over a two week period between 15 and 29 May 2014. A total of 13 workshops were completed with a total of 140 participants, including 11 carers, 40 service users, 85 staff and 40 who did not record their designation.

An easy read ten question survey was developed for participants to self rate their awareness, knowledge, applied skills and confidence before and after the choking awareness workshop. The results of the survey show that the DVD and other easy read resources are effective. Following the implementation, all participants had an increased understanding of choking and ways to reduce risks.

Feedback/quotes from service users/carers involved

John said; “Before I worked with speech and language therapy, I didn’t know choking was so serious. This is me telling my story and how I feel being through it (choking). Even if I help one person it will be fantastic.”



Further Information

For further information, contact:
Angela Crocker, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Email: angela.crocker@belfasttrust.hscni.net
Tel: 028 9504 6111