Suffolk mental health trust praised as national leader in autism and learning disability support scheme

Sue Bridges, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) professional lead for learning disabi

Sue Bridges, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) professional lead for learning disabilities and autism. Picture: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

The region’s mental health trust can be “justly proud” of the support it is offering to patients with learning disabilities and autism.

This is the view of Peter Bates, who has praised Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) in a national report for its work on the Green Light Toolkit.

NSFT was one of just five mental health trusts to feature in the review of the initiative, which was introduced by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) in 2013.

The toolkit helps trusts make appropriate adjustments to support patients who have a learning disability and/or autism on top of a mental illness.

NSFT adopted it in October 2015 and has trained 184 “Green Light Champions” to promote best practice.

They include staff working in all areas of the trust, service users and people in other organisations, such as Suffolk Community Healthcare.

Mr Bates, who is from the NDTi and wrote the report, said: “I’m delighted to acknowledge the pioneering work of NSFT, and especially the passion and commitment of the Green Light Champions.

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“Their energy has taken the Green Light agenda to every part of the trust and beyond into community organisations.

“Significantly, the trust has continued to invest in the Green Light agenda and it is this that has delivered the year-on-year improvements of which the trust can be justly proud.”

Sue Bridges, NSFT’s professional lead for learning disabilities and autism, said Mr Bates had visited the trust to talk to staff and service users to help his research for the report. He told her NSFT was a national leader in the implementation of the Green Light Toolkit.

“It’s satisfying that the high quality work of NSFT has been acknowledged in a national report,” she said.

“Our trust has fully embraced the Green Light agenda and for us it is a leading priority which is championed by our director of nursing, quality and patient safety with support from our staff.

“Since the report was published, we’ve been approached by staff from trusts from all over the country who want to learn from us.

“My hope is that the report will help to promote Green Light work in all mental health trusts because we already know it makes a significant difference to the experience of our service users who have autism or learning disabilities.”

Changes that have been made by NSFT include putting up easy-to-understand signage at Hellesdon Hospital.

The Suffolk Autism Diagnostic Service website has also been adapted with ‘easy read’ options, and photographs of every member of staff.

Appointment letters are also sent to patients in blue envelopes to make them easy to identify, and pictures of staff members are included so they can be recognised when they arrive at their home.

In an audit carried out last year, NSFT was performing above the national average on 24 of the 27 toolkit standards.

NDTi is a not for profit organisation working to ensure people are not excluded due to their age or disability.