Going into hospital can be a worrying time for anyone. But it can be particularly terrifying and stressful for someone with a learning disability.
A new post has been created for Scunthorpe hospital to work with GPs and hospital staff to try to ensure people with a learning disability have a positive experience and that their health needs are met.
Charlotte Simpson is the new primary and acute hospital liaison learning disability nurse. She is employed by Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) and has an honorary contract with Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS FT.
Charlotte said: “It is a really exciting role as I am working alongside GPs across North Lincolnshire, as well as with staff at Scunthorpe hospital in the hope we can all make a positive difference in the way we care for patients with a learning disability.”
Her remit is to provide support and assistance for learning disability patients who have a diagnosis, are over the age of 18 and are registered with a GP in North Lincolnshire.
By having the dual role she hopes GPs will let her know when patients need to come to hospital for a routine test or a procedure. Charlotte said: “Ideally I need to start working with these patients before they even come to hospital as that way I can assess what reasonable adjustments we may need to make.
“This could be something as simple as ensuring they receive easy read appointment letters, or that we build in extra time at appointments or try and find a calm quiet waiting room. We can also use pictures and storytelling to reduce their anxiety.”
She is also on hand to support and provide guidance for hospital staff in order to meet the needs of patients. Sometimes people cannot communicate with staff, so are unable to tell them about their dietary requirements or likes and dislikes.
Charlotte said: “Sometime we have to try and find a carer or family member who can help us. It may be they are on a special diet, or they cannot drink normal fluids. However, the patient cannot tell us this. We have to seek out that basic information.”
She is also on hand to work with staff so that any reasonable adjustments are made where required, and she can provide advice around the Mental Capacity Act including capacity assessments, best interest decisions and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates.
Charlotte said: “It will be a better experience for patients if we can plan their visit in advance. It will also be better for our hospital staff. It is just remembering that this group of patients can be extremely vulnerable and may not even understand where they are, or why they are here.”
Charlotte added: “If I can help people to understand about their health, understand why they are having treatment, and to prepare for coming to hospital for visits or stays then hopefully we can make sure things go well for them.
“It is about making sure people receive patient-centred care, they are treated the same as everyone else and that their care is not compromised in any way.”