Sherwood Forest Hospitals praised for approach to Learning Disabilities

Posted Friday, August 17, 2018 2:20 PM

A new independent report, commissioned by NHS England, has praised the way in which Sherwood Forest Hospitals cares for and supports people with learning disabilities and/ or autism when they go into hospital, including by making sure that environments are accessible, staff are appropriately trained, and that awareness of the needs of people with learning disabilities and/ or autism is embedded in the organisation and the way healthcare professionals work.  

The report was compiled by Changing Our Lives, an organisation which has a long history of working in coproduction with disabled people to check patient experience in a range of NHS settings including GP practices, general hospitals, mental health hospitals, dentists and pharmacies. 

The Changing our Lives team spent two full days at the hospital observing the environment and the way staff work, talking to staff in different departments, talking to people with learning disabilities and family carers who have been in the hospital and reading information produced by the Trust. Their findings were written into a report and highlighted a number of areas of good practice including:

  • The role of the Trust’s Learning Disabilities Specialist Nurse, Ruth Harrison is well established within the hospital.  She works closely with staff from across all of the departments and at all levels. She provides direct support in clinical situations but also works at a strategic level to develop improvement plans and monitor progress.
  • The hospital is using the expertise and experience of staff in the respiratory ward to make sure that people with learning disabilities and/or autism who have a lot of health needs receive consistent and coordinated support.
  • The use of a specific care pathway for people with learning disabilities which supports staff when a person with a learning disability and/ or autism comes into the hospital.
  • Increasing numbers of staff with a good knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act. They are thinking more about how they help people to make their own decisions about their health care.
  • The use of an electronic flagging system in the hospital which makes sure that people with learning disabilities and/ or autism are flagged and can be cared for appropriately and safely.
  • Departments in the hospital are actively thinking about how they can make their areas less frightening for patients with learning disabilities.
  • Senior decision making staff are committed to improving support for patients with learning disabilities.
  • There are several learning disability champions in place throughout the Trust who help to give support, guidance and advice.

However, the report highlighted some areas in which the hospital could consider doing more including further improving staff awareness of the Mental Capacity Act; reintroducing a Learning Disability Steering Group, and additional support and training for Learning Disability Champions.

Suzanne Banks, Chief Nurse at Sherwood Forest Hospitals said: “Treating patients with compassion and respect is vitally important to us as Trust, and we are proud of the steps we have taken in the last few years to improve the care and experience of our hospital for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. 

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to demonstrate this to Changing our Lives, and are pleased that the report recognises much of the good work that we have done.  

“We’re also grateful for the practical suggestions of ways in which we can continue to improve – and will be taking these suggestions forward in the coming months.”

Jayne Leeson, CEO of Changing our Lives said:

“It is sadly still the case that people with a learning disability have poorer physical health than the general population, often through avoidable causes including not getting adequate healthcare. So it is really encouraging to find so many positive examples of reasonable adjustments and good practice at Sherwood Forest Hospitals; staff managers are clearly working hard to ensure that people with learning disabilities receive equal access to good healthcare, just like everyone else.

“Their plans for the future and commitments to continually improve the way they do things should result in better health outcomes for people with a learning disability living in the local area.”


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