Spotlight on: the Learning Disability team

To mark Learning Disability Week (20-26 June) we’re highlighting the vital role our LD team play in caring for patients with learning disabilities and autism.

The specialist LD and Autism team is made up of Tara Webster who is the Adult Specialist LD and Autism Nurse, LD and Autism Matron Lydia Smith and Fiona Springall, Children and Young People’s LD and Autism Specialist Nurse.

“There have been improvements in the care our hospital provides patients with learning disabilities and autism in the last 10 years,” said Tara.

“Most notably around increased awareness of the diagnoses and what that may mean for the people we support.”

The number of patients with learning disabilities has increased over the years with many having complex needs.

“We know our colleagues generally want the best care for their patients and it really makes a difference when they are able to recognise and respond to factors like people’s communication needs or finding ways to support them with their anxiety,” added Tara.

Earlier in the year, the team undertook an engagement exercise across the hospital, signalling a change of approach to make the most of the team’s specialist knowledge and deal with the extra demand it faced.

The LD team aims to educate colleagues across the Trust so they can deal with straightforward requests for service adjustments, leaving the team time to pick up colleagues’ education and care for patients with the most complex needs.

“We want to improve the safety and experience of care for our patients and our plan is to share the teams’ knowledge and empower colleagues to make adjustments to their services independently,” said Tara.

The LD team is rolling out new training to give everyone the confidence to make these small adjustments and ask about the needs of individual patients in line with the service redesign launched in March.

“We are still available for colleagues to seek advice from. We can still give advice over the telephone if a team is unsure of what arrangements to put in place,” added Tara.

“Many of the teams have already taken on good practice, for example in the Emergency Department they proactively assess patients with learning disabilities and autism using our specially designed risk assessment tool on Symphony that enables earlier identification of factors that may impact patient safety or experience while in hospital.

“Another example is the sensory activities pack used by Children’s ED which helps patients manage their anxieties more effectively, plus the use of quiet rooms away from busy areas”, said Fiona.

When asked about what they enjoyed about their roles, Tara said: “For me it’s the autonomy and the diversity of tasks: seeing patients, educating colleagues and being able to implement service improvements that can drive bigger changes for our patient group.”

“I enjoy the variety in our work from preparing children for hospital treatment and making sure they receive the best possible care, to working with other hospital teams,” added Fiona.

“It is inspiring when I support patients to achieve something they didn’t think they would ever be able to do.”

Back to News