I’ve written quite a bit already here about Mencap’s #TreatMeWell campaign, and the urgent call from organisations and clinicians for mandatory LD training. The need for this training is well attested and documented. However, its execution – in my Trust at least – has proved to be a challenge.
Let’s go back a year or so. As a student nurse, before the start of Mencap’s campaign, I was searching keenly for a way to campaign for better care for people with learning disabilities. I was educating my colleagues on placement, ordering easy read material for the wards and hosting awareness sessions with my fellow students. However, I wanted to be able to access a wider audience of clinicians. I wanted to make a difference across the whole hospital, and hopefully the Trust. And so, I scheduled a meeting with the King’s LD liaison, Lynne.
That’s right: there is one, just one, LD liaison nurse for the entire King’s Trust. That’s five hospitals. Meeting her was both an inspiring and sobering experience. Lynne is fiercely passionate about improving care, and – with the support of the fantastic LD community teams around each of the hospitals – she meets with people with learning disabilities every day to hear about how we can improve. Her work is tirelessly compassionate and truly admirable.
In that first meeting, she gave me a very generous amount of her valuable time to teach me about what needs to be done. We shared our ideas and agreed how fantastic it would be to have mandatory training and LD champions across the Trust. There was, however, at the time not enough people or resources. She expressed her intense frustration at hearing stories of poor care and not getting the support to truly fix it.
This meeting made a huge impression on me. I desperately wanted to be an ally to her. With the motivational power of the #TreatMeWell campaign behind us, Lynne started to make our ideas a reality. The powers that be who allocate resources to this cannot ignore the need any longer. Something needs to change. So, on Thursday 22nd November we held comprehensive LD training at the Princess Royal University Hospital.
The turnout alone was an indicator of the widespread desire for this training. We were absolutely thrilled to see a packed room of nurses, OT’s, PT’s and HCA’s. Lynne started us off by explaining why we were there: why we need this training; what we need to know; and what needs to change. It’s so important to have someone with a Learning Disability present at training, and we were lucky enough to have David, a patient expert, there to talk about his own experience. And I was lucky enough to be able to share my experience as a relative/carer. And finally, LD community nurses Mel and Stella were there to tell us about the invaluable role their teams play in helping inpatient staff with care plans and discharges, among many other things.
Through a mixture of interactive talks, group work and case studies we managed to make what seemed to be a very good impression on our attendees. At the end of the training, we asked everyone to write down the main thing they will change in their practice as a result. The responses were very encouraging:
I will allow more time to make reasonable adjustments
I will look out for learning disability resources, and use it in my practice
I will refer people with learning disabilities straight away to LD nurse
I will listen to carers and family
I will read the LD passport
I will be aware of John’s campaign
I will strive to work more flexibly
I will become a champion for my area
I will make easy read material available in my area
I will be more mindful of the needs of patients with learning disabilities
I will use pictorial resources
I will challenge decision making of my colleagues where appropriate to avoid diagnostic overshadowing
These responses show that everything that is being missed – nearly all the things leading to the tragic cases of neglect and death – can be corrected. This training session has created 26 knowledgeable, well-informed and motivated ambassadors for the PRUH. It will prevent the same avoidable mistakes happening again and again. This is what we need.
Can you imagine the change we can make if this training was enacted across the Trust? If every single staff member had this information, and pledged to make these changes? Lynne and I hope to complete this session at the Denmark Hill site soon. But we need the support of our colleagues.
Whichever Trust you’re in, show your support. Get in touch with your LD team and get behind them. Make your desire for this training impossible to ignore.
Watch this space for updates from the other King’s sites… and please let us know about LD training where you work!
Written by Lily Parham, @lily_parham