New ‘one stop shop’ for patients with learning disabilities and autism

Date: 05 September 2022

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A new ‘one stop shop’ service has launched at Medway Maritime Hospital for patients with learning disabilities and autism who require medical procedures under a general anaesthetic.  

The project, which aims to improve healthcare outcomes, allows patients to have a combination of important treatments such as blood tests and vaccinations (for patients with severe needle phobia), dental and podiatry work, and endoscopies or colonoscopies, while they are sedated and following a best interest decision. Usually these procedures are completed while a patient is awake, but for people with learning disabilities and autism they can be traumatic and overwhelming without a general anaesthetic. 

During their time in hospital while under general anaesthetic for a medical treatment, patients are cared for by specialist multi-disciplinary teams from Medway NHS Foundation Trust and Medway Community Healthcare who work to ensure that all ‘reasonable adjustments’ are made to facilitate a safe and patient-centred experience. Under the Equality Act 2010, public sector organisations like NHS trusts must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ or changes, in their approach or provision to ensure that services are accessible to disabled people as well as everybody else. 

One of the first patients to trial this new service was 26-year-old Jack Wood, from Gravesend, who has severe autism and a communication disorder which leaves him verbally limited. Jack’s mother, Rachel Wood, explained how staff went ‘’above and beyond’’ for her son to deliver a ‘’VIP service’’.

Rachel said: ‘’Initially Jack was referred to hospital by the community learning disability team, as he needed some urgent dental and foot treatments which could only be done under general anaesthetic. Best interest meetings were held and a plan of action was put in place which detailed everything down to the finest point.   

‘’On the day of the procedure Jack was whisked straight into theatre and we didn’t have to wait around, which is something Jack can find difficult. They even managed to arrange for Jack to have a haircut and beard trim while he was sedated – this is something we haven’t managed to do in a long time because of the sensory challenges associated with autism and cutting hair. 

‘’Overall the team were outstanding and very professional, in particular Learning Disability Liaison Nurse Eloise Brett. Jack got a VIP service and so did we – everyone involved with my son’s care were truly amazing and they kept me updated regularly from start to finish. They went absolutely above and beyond for Jack and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. The best thing about it was they listened to and acted upon Jack’s needs – it makes such a big difference. All the staff were so professional and I can’t thank them enough.’’  

Jayne Black, Chief Executive at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘’I’m incredibly proud of all colleagues who came together to launch this fantastic new initiative for our patients with learning disabilities and autism. By having more access to these important treatments, it will ensure that patients have a better quality of life and improved outcomes.  

‘’Our thanks also go to colleagues at our partner organisations, including Medway Community Healthcare, who continue to work with us closely on this project ensuring that the best interests of the patients are met and all reasonable adjustments are made to support their needs.’’ 

Martin Riley, Managing Director at Medway Community Healthcare, said: ‘’Thank you to all the staff from both Medway Community Healthcare and Medway NHS Foundation Trust for introducing this innovative service. Its launch is testament to the dedication and hard work of all involved; and it will make a huge difference to the experience of patients with learning disabilities and autism.’’ 

  • Summary:

    A new ‘one stop shop’ service has launched at Medway Maritime Hospital for patients with learning disabilities and autism who require medical procedures under a general anaesthetic.