Not many hospital visits start in this way, but the Leeds Teaching Hospitals ‘get me better’ workshops for children and young people with learning disabilities, learning difficulties or autism do – why, because it is familiar, makes people laugh and helps to reduce any anxieties.
We first heard about this great example at the ‘Getting Things Changed’ workshop where we discussed the provision of reasonable adjustments for disabled people by hospital services in Leeds. A key part of the workshop was about sharing examples of reasonable adjustments, and it was heartening to find out about so much good work.
Each of the Special Schools in Leeds have been invited to attend the workshops, which run twice a year (March/April and September/October) and are aimed at children and young people who may need regular hospital visits, enabling them to feel more comfortable in hospital environments. Each school is asked to identify a class that it is felt would benefit from attending, with a group of about 8 young people.
The first workshop is held in the classroom. LTHT staff visit the class and share Dr Dr Jokes and take equipment for the young people to look at and use. Hospital passports are given out and each young person is asked to complete one as the workshop progresses. The teachers then facilitate one or two sessions at school to talk about the visits to the hospital and answer any questions.
The young people then visit the Leeds General Infirmary and play uniform bingo as they walk to the children’s ward where they play leaders and play specialists facilitate a session in the playroom. During this workshop, the young people have a chance to get used to the hospital environment including smells and noises and learn some stress relieving exercises. They then enjoy a hospital meal and visit the hospital school.
Session 3 is a visit to the A&E department facilitated by the nursery nurses. One young person gets the opportunity to have a plaster cast put on and the group look inside an ambulance. Session four and five are the visits to the virtual ward and dental hospital. Young people get a chance to dress up as different staff members, lie on a trolley, be pushed in a wheelchair and even take blood from the artificial arm. They also learn about hand washing and wearing a hospital wrist band.
Week six is a consolidation week. Participants get a certificate from the LTHT chief executive, have their photos taken and revisit the image they made on week one.
The Children`s Hospital TV now has videos of all the workshop sessions available to watch too.
Parents are already commenting on the difference that these workshops are making; ‘my daughter let a nurse take her blood for the first time when she attended her last out-patient appointment’.
Staff at the hospital have also noticed that recent admissions have been much more positive, and are very enthusiastic about the workshops. Not only do children and young people with learning disabilities feel more confident about going to hospital, but hospital staff feel more confident about meeting their needs.
The ‘Getting Things Changed’ project will be looking to share examples of good practice on their website, and will also be working with professionals to share their good practice examples in journal article. We hope that this will have the potential to spread good practice further.
Getting Things Changed (Tackling Disabling Practices: Co-production and Change) is a three-year, University of Bristol led research study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. One strand of the study is about reasonably adjusted hospital services. This strand of the project is looking at what reasonable adjustments hospital services make for disabled people, and how we could learn from what works well in order to be able to improve services more generally. NDTi are working with the University of Bristol on this strand
LTHT also offer visits for individuals and adults, for further information please contact Barbara Ball, Learning Disabilities/Autism Support Nurse at LTHT [email protected]
Sue Turner is the at the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi)
NDTi is an organisation that promotes equal and inclusive lives for people in their communities, particularly where ageing or disability are issues
Sue Turner's blog is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the NDTi.