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Making Positive Moves: HPFT involved in learning disability research study

17 Jun 24

This week is Learning Disability Week. This year’s theme, “Do you see me?”, is about ensuring that people with learning disabilities are seen, heard and valued.

As part of Learning Disability Week, HPFT are placing a spotlight on Making Positive Moves (MPM), a project within the Trust that supports adults with a learning disability living in inpatient settings to move into their own homes.

The beginnings of Making Positive Moves

A group photo of six people who are part of the Making Positive Moves project

HPFT Clinical Psychologist Louisa Rhodes met Joan 10 years ago when she was moving out of hospital in Derbyshire. Joan is a woman with learning disabilities who had spent 37 years on and off in a hospital environment, and was being discharged into the community when they first met. Her dream was to return to Hertfordshire and have a home of her own, with a garden and a dog.

Joan’s story made Louisa realise that more support for people with learning disabilities was needed to help ensure that making their move was a positive experience for them. The MPM project was established in 2014, consisting of a small team of researchers and psychologists.


Since the establishment of the project in 2014, the team has been completing research with people with learning disabilities about their experiences of moving out of hospital.

In recent years, the team applied for funding to do a bigger study, with Louisa as the Chief Investigator.

Here, the team listened to the perspectives of people with learning disabilities across England regarding moving out of assessment and treatment units, psychiatric or mental health hospitals and forensic units. This involved interviews with them, with the option to include a self-selected key support person, and by using flexible, person-centred approaches such as using pictures and drawings.

Following discussions with 22 people with learning disabilities and a number of key support staff, the study identified four key foundations which can help people with learning disabilities to live their lives to their full potential in their own homes:

  1. Feeling safe in their relationships: Feeling supported and listened to in relationships.
  2. Belonging and keeping busy: Having a routine and taking part in activities which provide them with a sense of belonging in the community.
  3. Making their own choices: Being included in decision making and having the support to make their own choices.
  4. Feeling happy with who they are: Moving into their own homes and building their foundations helped people to develop a much more positive view of themselves.

A circular diagram with 5 written elements inside. Firstly, in the middle, there is a smaller inner circle saying "living my best life". Surrounding the inner circle, it says four phrases, including "making choices", "belonging and busy", "happy with who I am" and "feeling safe".

This Model is called ‘Building My Foundations – supporting a happy and healthy life in the community.’

Following the bigger study, the team have worked with a team at Beluga Animation to create an accessible animation about the study’s findings. The team have also built a website which was developed following their original research and is designed for people with learning disabilities who are going through a big move. Joan played a significant role, helping to design the logo, build the website, and recording the animation’s voiceover.

She has shared her thoughts:

“I wanted to help other people leaving hospital, so that they could have as good an experience as I have.”

With this study, the researchers hope to improve the experience of people with learning disabilities when moving out of hospital, and reduce the risk of readmission to an inpatient environment.

The next steps for the project team are workshops. These workshops will invite all stakeholders in the research to co-develop resources helping to support the model being used in improving care and support for people with learning disabilities leaving hospital.

Click here to visit the Making Positive Moves website.

Watch the video below.

For more information, please email hello@makingpositivemoves.org.

HPFT and the University of Hertfordshire are the co-sponsors in this study, partnering with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Hertfordshire County Council and the University of Warwick.

This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research for Patient Benefit Programme, Award ID: PB-PG-1217-20032. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

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