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Improving services for people with learning disabilities and autism

​Learning Disabilities Week- 19 to 25 June

Service users with learning disabilities and autism are now receiving mental health services which better meet their needs thanks to a national initiative introduced at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The news comes during Learning Disability Week, which runs from 19 to 25 June.

The Green Light Toolkit has been rolled out across the Trust over the last 18 months, and focuses on making reasonable adjustments to improve the care which people with learning disabilities and autism receive, such as providing easy read patient leaflets and care plans. The Trust is sharing information about the changes it has made during Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week, which runs until Friday.

As part of the initiative, NSFT has recruited 128 of its staff to act as ‘Green Light Champions’, who work across the Trust to promote best practice to colleagues and make sure their services meet the needs of people with a learning disability or autism. Changes they have made so far include:

• Making sure all ward signage at Hellesdon Hospital is easy to understand and accessible to everyone.
• Sending easy read appointment letters which include a photograph of the staff member so that service users can recognise them when they arrive at their home.
• Developing a clear and easy-to-use website for the Suffolk Autism Diagnostic Service which explains the help it provides and includes photographs of every member of staff (available by visiting
• Using blue envelopes when posting appointment letters so that they are easy to identify and therefore more likely to get opened.

The Trust is also finalising its first ever Learning Disabilities and Autism Strategy, which has been developed in partnership with service users, families, carers and staff. The strategy explains the changes which will be made over the next five years meet the 27 standards set out in the Green Light Toolkit and further improve care.

This includes simple steps like making sure all documents are available in easy read versions, as well as more complex changes, such as reviewing care pathways to make them more accessible.

Sue Bridges, Professional Lead for Learning Disabilities and Autism, said: “We are really proud of the positive changes our Green Light Champions have made in such a short period of time. They are helping to improve the services we provide not only by raising awareness, but also by ensuring their teams are making reasonable adjustments to meet service users’ needs.

“The feedback we’ve received from service users and their families about the project so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and they really appreciate the extra focus we are placing on making sure our services meet their needs. We’ve also recruited five service user champions, who are sharing their experiences and ideas to help us improve still further.

“The next stage of the programme will see us carry out additional training and education with our staff before launching our strategy later this summer. There is still work to be done, but we are delighted with the changes that have been made so far and look forward to continuing this important work over the coming months and years.”

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