East Cheshire NHS Trust has won the North West Leadership Academy award for Patient Inclusivity, based on a radical improvement in the service provided for patients with Autism.
‘Open 2 Autism’ was led by Lillian Rimmington, Theatre Recovery Team Leader at the Trust, as one of the Trust’s ‘First 10’ Listening into Action (LiA) teams.
The ‘case for change’ was compelling. A simple survey asked patients and carers about their experiences at any NHS healthcare facility or service – this was not restricted to East Cheshire.
The stark results showed that 76% of carers and 100% of patients with an Autism Spectrum Condition rated their overall hospital experience as ‘average’, ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. One parent surveyed said: “We will never be able to visit the hospital again as my son will be in severe distress at the sight of it. He has suffered nightmares ever since”.
Having witnessed first-hand the difficulties that members of the Theatres team often had in adapting routine practices and making reasonable adjustments to support people with Autism and their carers, Lillian felt it was time to take action.
The vision was to radically improve the quality of care and the patient/carer experience by:
- Developing a system to identify patients with an Autism Spectrum Condition on admission or referral to the Trust
- Actively raising staff awareness of autism through training for all front-line teams at the Trust
- Developing a network of staff empowered to make reasonable adjustments in their own clinical areas to support patients with autism.
The impact on staff and patients has been remarkable and liberating.
The number of staff feeling ‘somewhat’ or ‘very confident’ in supporting patients with Autism has risen from 33% to 100% following this specialist training, and they responded positively to the opportunity to learn and develop the service they offer to patients: “It was excellent, relevant and informative”, “Will help in my clinical practice”, and “Hungry for more to help me improve patient care”.
The work has been praised by the National Autistic Society (NAS) and Lillian is now working with them towards becoming the first Trust in the country to gain formal accreditation.
Special training received by 800 staff from all disciplines at the Integrated care organisation has significantly enhanced the patient experience and almost 10% of these front-line team members have been trained as a Link Practitioner across acute and community services. This has extended the reach of the service into the community and offers a more ‘joined up’ service for the patients. Alongside a more accessible and responsive service, the team has launched the open2autism website, connecting them with autistic people and families across Cheshire.
“I went along to the first LiA meeting as a complete cynic, fully expecting to hear about another process which would promise to enable clinical staff to make changes without giving them any power to actually make a difference.
“10 months on, I firmly believe this would not have grown with such speed and diversity without LiA. It has given clinical staff across the Trust the opportunity to show how much they care about the quality of services they deliver, and has allowed them to improve accessibility for autistic people who struggle tremendously to overcome their fears in order to access healthcare services so many of us take for granted”.