The caring face of Kettering General Hospital
Empathy in action: Chris delivers inspirational assistance
“HOSPITAL can be a scary place for people with learning disabilities.” Those are the words of one who knows – a Wellingborough man who has learning disabilities himself – who has been helping to make time in hospital less scary by working alongside staff at Kettering General Hospital (KGH).
Since 2010, Chris (32) has been helping staff to better understand people with learning disabilities and, this year, he began delivering inspiring training sessions.
Chris explains why hospitals can be stressful: “You are sleeping somewhere new, your routines are all changed and some people with learning disabilities need help with things like eating.
“I wanted to help staff to realise the sorts of things they can do to help patients with learning disabilities feel better.”
Since taking up his two-day-a-week post, Chris has notched up a number of achievements, such as giving learning disability training sessions. Initially, Chris did this with the support of LD liaison nurse, Marianne Duffy, but more recently he has had the confidence to deliver them on his own – training on ten different wards since January.
He has also worked with staff to develop a learning disability information pack for wards and departments, giving details of common issues people with LD face, Mencap guidelines, an a-z of health issues and an assessment tool and communication symbols.
Chris also contributes to awareness group and disability forums and has sat on interview panels and spoken at conferences.
His most recent venture has been to develop an easy way for learning disability patients to describe their experiences in hospital, so improvements can be made.
He said: “I ask the patient a number of questions such as, ‘did you like the food? Is the hospital kept clean? Are the doctors and nurses friendly? Did you understand them? Would you come back to KGH next time you are poorly?’
“For each of the questions, we have lots of pictures on a board to show what I mean. I also have three symbols for ‘yes, no’ and ‘not sure’ so learning disability patients can point to them to make replying easy.
“It helps us to see if any of the patients are having any problems.”
Learning Disability Liaison Nurse Marianne Duffy said: “Chris’s confidence has improved a lot over the last 18 months. Staff know him now and, when he does his staff training session, he really gets his messages across.
“He also works directly with learning disability patients on the wards to deliver the questionnaire and generally support them and help them to be a bit more independent and involved in their care and the decisions around it.”
Emergency care lead nurse, Mandy Blackman, said: “We set in place a training programme for staff which Chris has been very actively involved. And now we have the easy to understand patient satisfaction survey – specifically designed for patients with learning disabilities – which Chris takes to patients and helps them to fill in.”
Chris was himself a patient some ten years ago. He said: “My experience of hospital has been both good and bad and I want to help staff to realise why that is.
“Hospital can be a scary place for people with learning disabilities. I wanted to help staff to realise the sorts of things they can do to help patients with learning disabilities feel better.”
Pictured above – HELPING HAND: Learning disability project worker Chris Abram has helped develop an LD learning resource pack.