This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 5 February, 2018
Learning disability care has, arguably, been seen as a Cinderella service for many years and the NHS is working hard to change this by making real improvements.
In Doncaster we have joined forces with local authorities and NHS organisations in Sheffield, Rotherham and North Lincolnshire to create a new-style Transforming Care Partnership – one of nearly 50 across the country.
Together we are working with people with a learning disability and/or autism – who have challenging behaviour – to agree and deliver local plans that will make a real difference to them.
Transforming care is about homes not hospitals. It’s a way of improving health and care services so more people can live in the community with the right support.
Change is happening by giving people more say in their care and strengthening the support available to them in Doncaster’s communities, which in turn is reducing the amount of time spent in hospitals.
Involving people who are affected by the changes is very important to us, and why we have appointed three Experts by Experience to help us deliver improvements. They all have personal experience of using – or caring for someone who uses – local health or social care services.
Kay Kirk is a family carer who looks after her 38-year-old son, Scott, who has a learning disability, mild autism and challenging behaviour. They live in a specially converted bungalow in Dunscroft.
Kay who has been involved in the community and voluntary sector for nearly 20 years, including being a former Board member of Healthwatch Doncaster, was looking for a new challenge and we eagerly accepted her offer to become an Expert by Experience.
As well as speaking at conferences and special events, one of Kay’s key roles is being an independent voice on a panel which carries out Care and Treatment Reviews (CTRs) of people who have a learning disability, autism, challenging behaviour and/or a mental health condition.
CTRs help to improve the quality of care for the person in hospital or help the person stay in the community by asking key questions and making recommendations that lead to better safety, care and treatment. Crucially, they reduce the amount of time spent in hospital by bringing the right people together to sort out any problems which are delaying discharge.
Recently, Kay has been working with fellow Experts by Experience Mark Johnson and Raymond Humphries – who both have a learning disability – on a project which has been focussing on dentistry services in Doncaster. Mark and Raymond are also members of Choice for ALL Doncaster (ChAD), a group which speaks up for the 700 people in Doncaster who have a learning disability.
Following their research, the trio jointly produced a report which has recommended producing a special ‘easy-read’ explanatory dental appointment card for patients with a learning disability, which is currently being explored by regional NHS staff.