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Bright Futures in East Kent – Daniel Marsden

The latest our series of blogs on NHS Learning Disability Employment comes from a Practice Development Nurse who reflects on the experience of developing a supported internship programme in East Kent and the visible benefits for those who take part in the programme:

Over the past five years East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been the employer partner in an inter-agency programme.

It is working with Kent Supported Employment and East Kent College to provide people with mild and moderate learning disabilities work placements at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

With a classroom on site, East Kent College tutors are able to provide the academic element to the year-long course, while job coaches support the many and varied placements that a hospital is able to offer.

The students – or interns – have three 10-week placements prior to graduating with competitive marketable skills with which to enter the jobs market.

What chimed with me, though, was how the course reflected my experience; as a nursing student I spent some time in the classroom and in practice on the wards, and was supported by tutors and mentors to learn through experience, reflect and discover what my ‘calling’ was.

Post qualifying, my first job came through contacts made through the course, and the same follows for Bright Futures graduates who have developed skills and relationships with potential recruiting managers in our organisation.

When we explored the outline of the course, we were presented with two main pieces of evidence. Firstly, it makes economic sense for our organisations. Research suggests that people with learning disabilities are more likely to remain in jobs that usually have a high turnover of staff, improving continuity and reducing costs.

Secondly, our workforce should better reflect the local population that is serves. The programme appeared to be a prime opportunity to safely expose and support staff to make adjustments for the interns.

To support these drivers we conducted a research project (Marsden, 2013) which established a link between working with interns and hospital staff’s newly-developed abilities to make adjustments in their communication methods, which hospital staff believed would be transferable to working with patients. This established a clinical evidence base for Bright Futures and employing more people with learning disabilities across our organisation.

Each year, Bright Futures graduates have been employed in East Kent Hospitals, while many others have used their experiences and more robust CVs to get jobs outside of EKHUFT. I’ve witnessed first-hand the significant impact for the interns’ lives, the people around them, and society at large – as well as the significant positive impact on the culture of the teams in which the students work.

Bright Futures graduates have shared that they are able to use public transport more confidently and develop an active social life, while another graduate said they wouldn’t have been able to go on holiday with their brother without their job as a Health Care Assistant in Cardiac Care.

This partnership programme has enabled a generation of people with learning disabilities in the Margate area to contribute both to services and the wider economy, and we are enthusiastic to harness the current interest created by the Five Year Forward View to provide similar opportunities at our other hospitals in Ashford and Canterbury.


Daniel MarsdenDaniel Marsden is currently a Practice Development Nurse for people with learning disabilities at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation NHS Trust.

He supports staff with developing their skills at providing their expertise to people with learning disabilities. This includes delivering training, policy development, project management, clinical leadership, facilitation, research and audit.

Daniel is a keen runner, and joint treasurer of a football team, husband and father of two.

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