Learning Disability Week, 19 to 25 June
People with learning disabilities and who have a mental health issues are receiving more support to help them avoid hospital admissions and remain at home thanks to a new specialist service run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).
The service launched recently as part of a national drive to transform care for people with learning disabilities and to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. News that it is already making a difference comes during Learning Disability Week, which runs from 19 to 25 June.
The Learning Disabilities (LD) Intensive Support at Home Service offers short periods of additional help to people from across Suffolk, aged 14 and over, and who have a moderate or severe learning disability along with challenging behaviour or mental health problems.
The team, which is currently made up of four healthcare support workers, five nurses and a social worker, operates from 7am to 9pm, seven-days-a-week and offers a step-up in care for people whose behaviour is deteriorating. They provide intensive support in the individual’s own home wherever possible, in turn reducing the chance that they will need to be admitted to hospital.
The team also offers support following a hospital admission so that patients can be discharged more quickly when they are medically fit to go home.
The service has been commissioned by NHS West Suffolk and NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Jacquie Knott, Deputy Service Manager for Acute Learning Disability Services with NSFT, said: “Although the service is still in its infancy, the feedback we’ve received so far has been really positive and we are delighted to be making a difference to people’s lives.
“This important new service provides intensive support at an early stage, in turn preventing an individual’s condition from deteriorating and reducing the chances that they will need to go into hospital.
“The team acts as a gatekeeper of beds so that people are only admitted when a stay in hospital is essential, as we know it is far better to provide support at home or in the community wherever we can.
“The team also speed up discharge by supporting people back into their existing homes or on to new ones, which is already having a positive impact on the length of time people are staying at Walker Close, our Learning Disabilities inpatient unit, in Ipswich.
“Members of the team are able to spend longer with service users, analysing their behaviour and routines to identify what may be causing challenging behaviour. We will then work with both the service user and their family to find practical ways to help.
People can be referred to the service by community mental health teams or by their GP, once physical health problems which could be affecting their behaviour have been ruled out.
A further three nurses, additional healthcare support workers and a part time specialist doctor to the team will now be recruited to complete the team.
Barbara McLean, chief nursing officer, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said: “Working with NSFT, both CCGs have developed this service which enables patients with a learning disability to be supported every step of the way, so that they receive the right treatment, in the right location and away from the hospital environment.
“We know that people make a more effective recovery away from the hospital environment and this service is a positive example of how care for people with learning disabilities is moving to a community-based model.
“Both CCGs remain committed to delivering the best services to people of all ages living with a learning disability or mental health issue. We are already working on delivering positive changes to Special Educational Needs and Disability Services (SEND) and will increase overall spending on mental health services to £111 million in 2017/18 compared to £103 million last year.”
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