02 December 2021

A decade of providing dedicated support to people with learning disabilities across Bedfordshire and Luton is being marked by a Trust service.

The Health Facilitation Service (HFS) provides care in the community across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton and also has nurses at Luton and Bedford hospitals. 

Formed in November 2011, the team supports people with learning disabilities, their carers, support staff and other health professionals.  

People with a learning disability often have a lower life expectancy and increased health inequalities than the general population. 

Trish Brodie, Lead Nurse for Services for People who have a Learning Disability (SPLD), said the HFS supports people to access primary care in the community and acute care in the hospitals. 

The team work with service users to support their understanding of healthy ways of living and reason for health appointments, such as cancer screening programmes, annual health checks and health action plans. 

The team also undertakes preparation and desensitisation for blood tests and screening programmes. 

“Every member of this fantastic team is committed to the same outcome - enabling people with a learning disability to access healthcare that is equitable with the rest of the population and to bring their health outcomes in line with everyone else,” said Trish.  

The HFS is part of the Trust’s wider Learning Disability service in Bedfordshire and Luton and delivers care within the multidisciplinary team. 

The team joined ELFT in 2015 and have highlighted the support provided by the Trust that has enabled them to develop the service and implement change ideas.  

Achievements by the HFS have included an increase in health promotion activities, increased liaison with GPs and other professionals to ensure reasonable adjustments are being made within primary and acute services, closer working relationships with partner organisations, embedding good practice with acute hospital settings and an increase in use of health action plans.  

They have also supported BEDOC (Bedford on Call), the area’s out-of-hours GP and primary care service, in providing COVID vaccinations in the community. 

“The commitment demonstrated by the team to achieve good outcomes for people is clear and we are well placed to engage with local Primary Care Networks to ensure the health needs of people with a learning disability are highlighted, at place,” said Nikki Kynoch, Assistant Director for Services for people with a learning disability commented. 

 

Feedback from a service user: 

“Ten years is a long time to give such a service. I hadn't realised that my husband was one of your first patients! How on earth do I start to say thank you for the support the Health Facilitator's Team has given me and my husband? 

It all started when he wanted to give up smoking. The doctor said she would get the Health Facilitator to come and support him with appointments etc. But the team is much more than this. 

Over the years health facilitation has supported my husband with all his hospital and doctor’s appointments. Picked him up and brought him home. Spoken to him on numerous occasions over the phone when he has had a bipolar episode. She has always been my ‘go-to lady’ when I did not know what to do with him be it a mental health problem or physical health problem. She was always there for us and always pointed us in the right direction for help. 

She knew his condition and health needs so well I did not have to say much before she was up to speed and on the case. 

Continuity of service was always there and when my worker wasn't working she always gave us a direct number for help whilst she was away. We always had support available. 

During the last 12 months my husband’s health deteriorated until he died. During this time the team was there for us almost 24/7. My husband had pneumonia and then contracted COVID. He was poorly during lockdown and my worker never hesitated to put on her PPE and support him with all his hospital visits. At one of these visits he was tested positive for COVID and she had to exit the hospital via the ‘red door’!  

She always put her clients first and never said ‘no’ when we asked for help. 

The Health Facilitator Team is a fantastic service. It is difficult to understand the NHS with all its services and support available. Having a team like this has been our most ‘treasured possession’.  

Without their support life would have been so much more difficult for both my husband and I. 

A massive thank you and congratulations to all the team. May you still be around for another 10 years.