Helping end the anxiety

PATIENTS with learning disabilities are being put at ease thanks to a new hospital initiative.

A new service on offer at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has been outlined.

Bosses say the trust has been making efforts to do all it can to reduce anxiety levels among patients with learning disabilities and make them feel as relaxed as possible.

Over the last few months, staff have been organising monthly guided tours around both the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees.

The scheme also allows patients and their families and carers the opportunity to ask questions and meet doctors, as well as nurses and healthcare professionals.

Specialist nurse in learning disabilities Corinne Howard is one of those involved. She said: “Coming into hospital can be an anxious time for patients with learning disabilities.

“Many people with learning disabilities often find it hard to sit still and be comfortable when in a completely new environment.”

Corrinne added: “The guided tours are about making these patients feel as comfortable as they possibly can be during their stay in hospital.”

Adult safeguarding specialist nurse Molly Taylor said: “Visiting hospital can be a difficult for people with learning disabilities.”

She said the idea to organise the tours was inspired by a similar series of tours designed to give support and comfort to expectant families.

It worked by showing pregnant women around the maternity wards.

Molly added: “We thought that it could be very useful for patients with learning disabilities if we organised similar tours.

“We have aimed this at reducing anxiety in people with learning disabilities, mental health care needs and dementia care needs, and it has been a success.”

Trust officials said they had a definite aim in mind with the project and with other initiatives.

“Our trust is committed to providing improvements in the care experience for people with learning disabilities, as well as their carers and families,” added Molly.

Staff in the restaurant have also played a part, preparing refreshments for patients who have opted to go on the tours.

Head of catering Colin Chapman has also talked with patients about changing the layout of the canteen menus, to make them easier to read for people with a learning disability.

The trust plans to continue running the service in the long term.