Derbyshire health bosses sign up to Mencap charter

DERBY Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has signed up to Mencap’s ‘Getting it right’ charter to show their commitment to improving healthcare and treatment for people with a learning disability.

Getting it right is a campaign run by a group of organisations to improve healthcare for people with a learning disability. People with a learning disability experience poorer health and poorer healthcare than the general population. Mencap has worked in partnership with a number of organisations to produce a charter for healthcare professionals, to help them work towards better health, wellbeing and quality of life for people with a learning disability.

Derby Hospitals is already meeting eight of the nine points of the charter, with the ninth soon to be completed. These are making sure that the ‘Traffic Light Assessment’ is available and used; making sure that all staff understand and apply the principles of mental capacity laws; appoint a learning disability liaison nurse; make sure every eligible person with a learning disability can have an annual health check (the Trust is working with its community colleagues to support this); provide ongoing learning disability awareness training for all staff; and listen to, respect and involve families and carers.

There are also facilities to provide practical support and information to families and carers and provide information that is accessible for people with a learning disability. The Trust will also soon be displaying the Getting it right principles for everyone to see.

Debbie Edwards is the acute liaison nurse for learning disabilities at Derby Hospitals and has been in post for about a year. Employed by Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which means she maintains strong links and networks with specialist learning disability services, Debbie has worked within learning disability services in Derbyshire for more than 25 years. Her role is to bridge the gap between learning disability services and acute hospital services, advising Derby Hospitals staff on how they can make reasonable adjustments in care.

Debbie’s role is to provide specialist knowledge and expertise to assist people with a learning disability when they come into hospital. She also works with colleagues in Derby’s hospitals to promote better healthcare services for patients with LD, provide advice and highlight specific areas where a different approach may be needed, such as a longer appointment time, easy read information, communication and recognising pain.

Debbie said: “We want to ensure that every patient has a positive experience with us, looking at what we can do differently or how we can be flexible in caring for patients with learning disabilities. We have a highly skilled workforce here in Derby and the work we’re doing now builds on existing knowledge. It will ensure we are all aware of what the serious consequences of caring for patients with learning disabilities can be if we don’t get it right. It’s about appreciating how people are different and adapting to that.

“Over the past few years, nationally there has been a significant move to ensure acute hospitals like the Royal Derby Hospital look again at how they meet the needs of patients with learning disabilities. It’s important that we recognise that people with learning disabilities may have different needs, and that ward staff act upon that to provide the best possible care. I’ve experienced a lot of enthusiasm for my role from staff at the hospitals since I’ve been in post.

“We have also been undertaking some significant work by listening to patients and their families about the care they’ve experienced, both positive and negative. We use these films in training which allows staff to directly hear what people think. It can be very moving and really makes people think about how best to deliver care for individual patients.”

Alongside the charter, Mencap will work with Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to develop practical guidance and spell out the adjustments they need to make to sure they can support and ensure the best possible healthcare for people with a learning disability.

David Congdon, Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy, said: “Our charter sets out a standard of practice and will make health trusts accountable to people with a learning disability, their families and carers. We welcome Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s commitment to constantly strive to uphold these standards and help end the indifference experienced by too many people with a learning disability”

For more information on the Getting it right campaign and charter, and to show your support, visit www.mencap.org.uk/gettingitright