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A successful start for the West of England Learning Disabilities Collaborative

Learning Disabilities NEWS event

In April we held an event focusing on improving health outcomes for people with learning disabilities. Here Hannah Little, Patient Safety Improvement Lead and Senior Project Manager at the West of England AHSN reflects on the day and how it might have kick-started something big.

When we decided to host an event focusing on improving health outcomes for people with learning disabilities, we anticipated around 40 delegates would attend. It quickly became clear that there was much more interest than this, so we increased to 70. Places soon filled up, and with some internal budgeting negotiation (and a good discount from the venue), we managed to increase capacity to 130.

The fact that there is such enthusiasm to collaborate from such a wide variety of people shows just how important the issues facing people with learning disabilities are to so many. People with learning disabilities die 16 years earlier than average. People with profound and multiple learning disabilities have an average life expectancy of 46. Many of these deaths are from avoidable causes, such as sepsis.

Our health service needs to get better at preventing, recognising and responding to physical deterioration in people with learning disabilities, by adapting systems and services to meet individual needs and by providing reasonable adjustment where necessary.

Together with our co-lead, Kevin Elliott, Lead Nurse for NHS England and Improvement’s South West Learning Disability Programme, we identified three key areas of focus to improve health outcomes for people with learning disabilities:

  • Identifying deterioration by recording and communicating NEWS2
  • Increasing the uptake and improving the quality of annual health checks
  • Increasing uptake of flu vaccination

There are so many passionate people in the region working on these areas, with a desire to work together and bring the kind of collective change only possible through collaboration. This is the space events like this are able to create.

Conscious that people can leave an event buzzing with energy and enthusiasm but with little opportunity to carry this forward, we established a hive on our free online platform hyvr (have your vision realised). This platform gives passionate people the space to collaborate whenever suits them. With help from our fabulous communications team, we also made some postcards for people to write pledges on from their workshops, which we will post back to people in a few weeks’ time.

In true AHSN quality improvement style, the postcards had instructions about how to write a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) pledge, if people wanted to apply this technique. Our expert team were on hand at the AHSN stand to help with this during the breaks, if anyone needed.

Reading the things people have pledged to do following the event has been inspiring, and we are already seeing some of the pledges being turned into action. It’s still early days for the West of England Learning Disabilities Collaborative, but already members are working together to achieve great things.


Posted on May 29, 2019 by Hannah Little, Patient Safety Improvement Lead and Senior Project Manager, West of England AHSN

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