17 June 2016
Sarah Lally and Tamara McNamara are acute liaison nurses for people with a learning disability who work as part of the safeguarding team.
Tell us about your role
We support people with a learning disability who are coming into hospital and ensure they are not discriminated against due to their disability. We are also here to improve services for patients with a learning disability so they find it easier to access our hospitals, to raise awareness about the needs of people with a learning disability and to ensure we are implementing reasonable adjustments.
What are reasonable adjustments?
Reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement under the Disability Discrimination Act (2005) and the Equality Act (2010) to ensure that organisations are making services accessible for people with a disability. Examples of reasonable adjustments include allowing family to visit outside of normal visiting hours or overnight, using communication aids, asking for the patient’s hospital passport or offering them a blank one if they don’t have one, offering double appointment slots and offering first or last appointments of the day to minimise the distress of waiting in a busy noisy environment.
Tell us more about the hospital passport
The trust is signed up to the Mencap ‘Getting it right charter’. This means all people with a learning disability should have a hospital passport. The passport explains how the patient indicates pain, what support they need, any allergies and other important information. It is vital that all staff working with the patient read the passport and disseminate the information appropriately so they all understand the needs of the patient.
What should staff know about the Mental Capacity Act (MCA)?
The MCA is designed to protect and empower individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care and treatment. No one can consent on behalf of another adult over the age of 18. If someone is unable to consent to treatment, their capacity should be assessed and the assessment recorded on the MCA form and a copy kept in their notes. It is a legal requirement that all clinicians have an understanding about the MCA and how it is implemented in practice.
How can staff improve the care of patients with a learning disability?
- Check the patient has a hospital passport and read it. If they do not, offer them one and ask someone who knows them well to support them to fill it out.
- Inform the acute liaison nurse of any appointments or admissions.
- Beware of jargon – use simple language.
- Check capacity and apply for an independent mental capacity advocate if there is no next of kin/only paid carers involved.
- Many people with a learning disability live in supported living accommodation – not in residential or nursing care. This means they live in their own flats with a care package which may take time to get restarted. It is very important to plan discharge carefully – a meeting may be required if there are changes in the patient’s needs.
To mark learning disability awareness week from 20-26 June, Sarah and Tamara will be holding information stalls across all three of our hospitals.
Image: Tamara McNamara and Sarah Lally