In the fourth of our series of blogs for Learning Disability Week, Bethany Plummer, Learning Disability Network Manager for NHS England, talks about how the Learning Disability Engagement team will be ensuring that the theme of LD Week 2015 – Hear My Voice – is put into practice.
I am incredibly excited to be working in the Learning Disability Engagement team – a team we hope will inspire colleagues in NHS England make the way we work more accessible, available and understandable to all. Why? Because we want anyone who wants to have their say to be able to have their say.
The team will work to help NHS England cut down on the jargon and enable people with learning disabilities to exercise their right to get involved in and be informed about their own healthcare.
People with learning disabilities are more likely to experience poorer health outcomes and have shorter life expectancies than the general population – which is why yesterday’s announcement of a review to learn from and help prevent premature deaths is so important.
Despite this inequality, information which could help address it is not always readily available in an accessible format, which means the NHS isn’t doing enough to help people with learning disabilities look after their own health and care needs.
The Learning Disability Engagement team will think about how we can better co-design and co-develop services for people with learning disabilities and autism, their families and carers.
I will be job sharing with Katie Matthews, which for the first time in NHS England will include people with learning disabilities. Recently, Katie and I were talking about the new team, about what we want to achieve, and why.
Katie: “I think it is important for the NHS to employ people with Learning Disabilities because with or without a disability, everyone has a voice and a right to express themselves.”
This is about recognising that we are all equal but we each have different skills and qualities that make us experts at one thing or another. It is about remembering that ‘two heads are better than one’. It is about being inclusive, and it is how we should all be working, which is why I and many others were so encouraged by Wednesday’s announcement of joint action from NHS England and NHS Employers in this area.
Katie – “ I want to be a learning disabilities network manager because I have been doing this kind of work on a voluntary basis. I was working for People First Keighley & Craven which is a Self Advocacy Charity run by and is for people with Learning Disabilities. I also did voluntary work at the Down’s Syndrome Training & Support Service who look after children and young people with Down’s Syndrome and their families. What I enjoy the most is making a difference.”
Katie is an expert by experience. She has a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and a passion to make the health care system a place that is easier to navigate and easier to engage with.
She is brimming with ideas; I cannot wait for her to join us on Monday so that we can work together, learn from one another and together make the work we do inclusive and accessible for people with learning disabilities.
Alongside Katie and me, our engagement team will be made up of Aaron Wood, Thomas Chalke, Ogechi Ekpo, and Jo Whaley.
Together we are the Learning Disability Engagement team, and will work to ensure that people with learning disabilities have their voices heard in the NHS.
But our work is not just our business – it is everybody’s business. Every NHS England staff member has the potential to improve things for someone with a learning disability, and help make healthcare equal and fair; we need to make sure we take every opportunity to do so.