Friendship is just the tonic – Tracey Helliwell

During Learning Disability Week 2020, Tracey Helliwell, Clinical Team Leader for Learning Disabilities, NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) outlines the importance of friendship during the lockdown period.

At this time, many people with a Learning Disability and/or autism feel isolated as they have been unable to see their family, friends and relatives.

NHS Doncaster CCG CHC LD Team and a number of partner colleagues

The Continuing Healthcare Team (CHC) have had to re-think their usual ways of working and how they could continue to support the individuals we care for as the nation entered lockdown.

Thinking quickly on our feet, my team and I looked into how technology could support individuals and their families and carers to aid communication without having face to face contact and adhering to Government guidance.

Tracey Helliwell, Clinical Team Leader, Learning Disabilities CHC Team, NHS Doncaster CCG

Over the last three months, the CHC team have worked in partnership with Doncaster Council’s Community Adult Learning Disability Team and the Community Learning Disability Team at Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust to ensure every individual across the borough is safe, well and that their families and carers have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to reduce the risk of passing the virus on.

Due to the sheer nature of the virus, families and carers have had to do even more of what they’d normally do to support individuals with a learning disability and/or autism and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you from health and care organisations.

Where home visits had to take place, my team and I have been able to continue home visits safely. Even if this means popping over to make sure individuals, their families and carers are well through windows and visits to gardens, whilst maintaining social distancing, we made a decision to continue this important contact to ensure individuals did not feel isolated.

More recently the team have worked with families and organisations to establish safe methods of face to face communication whilst adhering to government guidance; this has been easier as a result of the boost to the availability of PPE across the country.

At a partnership meeting this week, a member of Doncaster Council’s Learning Disability team spoke about the value of partnership working to keep people well and safe. Some of his comments struck a chord with me and I’d like to share some of what he said:

“Learning Disability services in Doncaster have real purpose. The partnership listen to one another and put individuals, families and carers at the heart of everything it does.

“The beat is the drive, the rhythm and energy is the connection – that can be colleagues, patients, service users, families, carers or anyone for that matter. If your heart doesn’t beat properly, you’re in trouble – but one thing is for sure, the beat and rhythm in Doncaster is finely tuned – I’ve not worked in another area where partnership working works better.”

In my 31 years as a Learning Disability Nurse, I’ve never experienced a pandemic of this level and my team and I soon realised how important communication is – for many individuals, communication, whether this be virtual, face to face or via video consultation is just the tonic. It helps lift spirits and boost morale.

I would personally like to thank my passionate, dedicated team for all the fantastic work they have been doing to support individuals with a learning disability and/or autism, as well as the work of our partners, families and carers.

Long may friendships, both personal and professional continue.

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