Swindon NHS staff embrace extra training to support patients with learning difficulties and autism

By Ben Fitzgerald - 8 January 2019


Patients with additional or complex needs are the subject of a newly created training resource aimed at helping Swindon NHS staff improve care and treatment.

The 'learning and development toolkit' has been prepared by Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is being shared nationally to help all NHS staff better understand how to care for patients on the autistic spectrum or with learning difficulties. Anyone can access and deliver the training, even those who do not have prior additional and complex needs training. 

Behind the initiative are Wendy Johnson, head of safeguarding adults and mental health and lead nurse for learning disabilities, and Daniel Boden, clinical risk and patient safety manager and deputy lead for LD, who noticed a lack of feedback from patients with additional and complex needs.

Knowing that these patients can often find the standard feedback processes difficult to navigate without additional support, they decided to proactively meet with patients in their own environment to ask them what they thought of their healthcare experience. 

A film based on a combination of these patients’ feedback was created and forms a central part of a detailed learning and development toolkit, which advises staff on the most appropriate way to care for and communicate with these vulnerable patients. It highlights the importance of communicating in the most appropriate and direct way, instead of potentially assuming or talking over them to a carer, friend or family member.

Wendy Johnson said: “For us, the project was a perfect example of how to put the patient and their voice back at the centre of care quality improvement.

“We understood changes needed to be made to the care we provide to patients with additional and complex needs, and we hope that our learning and development toolkit can be shared across other Trusts to further improve on the training available for staff. 

“Our contributors to the project are now feeling more confident about any potential admissions to hospital, and as a result of the engagement are very keen to continue to work with, and to share all feedback with the Trust. This increased level of empowerment will serve to ensure their voices are heard.

“The toolkit has been designed to be future proof and relevant across all aspects of health and social care. We are keen for all providers of health and social care to have access to this toolkit and use it in their staff training programmes.”

The positive response that this toolkit has received from patients has also created a new process where staff regularly spend time in the community to meet with patients in their own comfortable and relaxed environments.

This ensures that the voices of those who might not necessarily find the existing feedback platforms easy to use are heard and shared; to further improve the services the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust deliver.

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