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Outstanding care for our service users with learning disabilities

04 Mar 19 - 04 Mar 20

The ethos is all around recovery for people living in Herts and Bucks with learning disabilities, who are also experiencing mental health issues and/or have challenging behaviour.

At our last inspection in 2018, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated wards for people with a learning disability or autism at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) as Outstanding.

Service users receive intensive support in their communities which operates seven days a week and aims to prevent admissions to hospital wherever possible. Learning Disability professionals respond to problems in the first instance by considering options such as providing a Positive Behaviour Support Plan which is personalised to each individual. It might involve looking at ways of adapting their environment to minimise “triggers” and/or providing extra hours of care.

If admission to hospital is necessary, the average length of stay at the Dove Ward in Radlett is twelve weeks. It has state-of-the-art facilities with modern and comfortable rooms which are all ensuite. Other facilities include a sensory room, a calming room, art therapy group, a modern kitchen to help with providing independent living skills, a family room and guest facilities for visitors who need to stay overnight. The ward is staffed by a team of dedicated health professionals, providing holistic mental and physical healthcare which focuses on recovery, discharge and beyond. One of the highlights for service users is the regular visits by the therapy dogs – many of the service users take the dogs for long walks, which not only helps improve their mental wellbeing but also improves their fitness. The weekly smoothy group facilitated by the Occupational Therapist is always popular and very messy. The service users enjoy creating lots of different combinations and drinking the finished product.

Within 72 hours of their arrival, service users have a clinical meeting and help to co-produce a comprehensive written Care Plan, to meet their specific needs that includes contributions from carers and family members as appropriate. They are also allocated a key professional from the Community Team who will work with them throughout their recovery journey and ensure a timely discharge.

An admission to Dove Ward can have added benefits. A young man from Hemel Hempstead was recently admitted as he was very unwell. Once the team had stabilised his mental health they were able to build up his independent living skills. He is now engaging in regular cooking sessions and is developing his skills to the point of being able to cook a complicated risotto, requiring only supervision and minimal verbal prompts. This is truly a hidden talent and he absolutely loves his cooking sessions, which will continue once he is discharged home.

John Fanning, HPFT’s Service Line Lead for Learning Disabilities in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire said: “Our Model of Care is working extremely well, but we continually strive to improve, placing service users at the centre of everything we do.

Comprehensive support is available within the community, which has significantly reduced the numbers of service users being admitted to hospital and their lengths of stay.

“Our service users, their carers and families co-produce their Care Plans with healthcare professionals and are actively involved in clinical meetings which focus on their recovery and safe discharge at the earliest opportunity.”

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