It’s amazing how easy it is to become accustomed to writing on a regular basis. I miss one day and it feels distinctly odd! Habit or obsession, well, you can make that judgement! The reason I didn’t update yesterday is that I had an early morning (meaning before ‘normal’ working hours) assessment. I invariably write up my posts first thing in the morning and apart from always feeling a little bit anxious before Mental Health Act assessments – this one in particular had been on my mind so I wanted a reasonably clear head.
There was though, one story I wanted to comment on, however briefly.
Namely, the scathing report published on Tuesday by the Health Ombudsman about institutional discrimination within the NHS relating to treatment of people with learning disabilities. Apart from being horrified by the events outlined in the report, I was also shocked.
I worked for about seven years in total in a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities. It was my first ever job (discounting holiday jobs!) and my first taste of the social care sector. When I started my social work training (during which I continued to work at the same home on a part time contract) I was absolutely sure I wanted to work in that area after qualifying. Of course, things happen and I am happy in my job (generally) now but unsurprisingly, the more I read of this report, the angrier I become.
Other sources have unsurprisingly picked up on it.
Mental Nurse asks how many of the problems related may come down to inexperience of medical staff at relating to and working with people who have learning disabilities as well as poor communication being a key to poor service delivery.
Campaigning for Health examines the particular case of Martin Ryan, one of those named in the report and the role of the Mental Capacity Act (2005) in defining a drip feeding as medical treatment which can be withdrawn
The Guardian publishes a picture gallery of the six people whom the report discusses. It is chilling to see the faces of those whom the service has so horrendously disregarded.
Mencap publish a response to the deaths of each of the six people named in the report.
To me, the story shows how far we need to go to understand and care for those who need additional support.
I was thinking about my own experiences in the time I worked in residential care. Generally we had very good relationships the local GP surgery. The GP would visit the home (which fortunately was about a 2 minute walk from the surgery) from time to time and knew each of the residents reasonably well.
On one occasion, one of the residents fell and broke her arm. She was admitted to the local hospital overnight – I don’t remember too many of the details but I seem to remember it involved some minor surgery. She was terrified. Hospital is where her father went to die. She was sure if she went to hospital she would die. I went to hospital with her – and I was allowed to sit with her through the night, on a chair, next to her bed. So there would be a familiar face. This was going back more than a few years, well over 10 years come to think of it.
I don’t know how ‘standard’ that would be, nor how many residential homes would be able to release staff like that (although, come to think of it, I think I wasn’t rota’ed to work at the time) – but I felt much more confident being able to sit with her and reassure her.
My only rather hollow hope is that these reports will lead to some real change, action and soul-searching to ensure that an excellent quality of care is delivered across the board.