As a GP and a clinical lead at the West of England AHSN I have always had a special interest in the use of NEWS2 (National Early Warning Score) to support clinicians in the early identification and management of the unwell patient. However, the more I used NEWS2 the more I wondered if patients could record observations such as their blood pressure or pulse rate and share these measurements with clinicians to help us decide whether they needed to be seen, and if so by who, and with what urgency. Read more about NEWS2.
The idea evolved and I shared it with my brother Ian, and his wife Kate, who are the parents of Toby who has a learning disability and therefore finds it a challenge to tell others when something is wrong. A few months later Toby developed a cough and became very quiet and subdued; while this may not be unusual for many people, for Toby this can be a sign that he is unwell. Kate took a full set of observations, calculated a NEWS2 score of 6 and took Toby to the local emergency department where he was promptly treated for sepsis.
LeDeR (Learning Disability Mortality Review) has identified that not only are people with a learning disability more likely to die of sepsis but on average they die more than 20 years younger than the general population. While this may partly be due to underlying health conditions it is also known that being unable to say you are unwell is another contributing factor.
Sharing Toby’s story
With permission I started to share Toby’s story when I spoke about NEWS2 and soon found there were many others who shared my concern that communication could be difficult if someone who has a learning disability becomes unwell. Anne Pullyblank, the medical director of the West of England AHSN, and I therefore decided to find out if there could be any interest in developing a group where practical ideas and strategies could be shared. We sent a speculative email which immediately generated lots of positive responses, and in 2019 the West of England Learning Disability Collaborative (WELDC) was established. There are now over 300 members from diverse backgrounds and include experts by experience, families, carers and clinicians.
Continuing the WELDC journey
The WELDC has continued to flourish and in the past year alone have delivered webinars on COVID-19, annual health checks, digital solutions and advance care planning. Alongside this there has been lots of sharing of knowledge and expertise and we have even had a question asked in the House of Lords. Most recently we have worked with the NHSE Learning Disability and Autism team to co-create training on ‘soft signs’ and communication which has been delivered to 8000 families and carers.
As there is increasing awareness of the health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities, we feel that the WELDC is well placed to support new models of care and look forward to seeing the collaboration continue to evolve and contribute to better outcomes for people like Toby.
The West of England Academic Health Science Network has worked in partnership with other NHS organisations, Health Education England e-Learning for Healthcare (HEE e-LfH), the Wessex Local Medical Committee and the TEL programme simulation and immersive technology team, to develop two free e-learning resources to support detection of early deterioration of patients with COVID-19.
The e-learning provides an overview of pulse oximetry for patients and carers and explains how to monitor oxygen levels at home or in a care home setting.
People at high risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 are being provided with a pulse oximeter to monitor the oxygen levels in their blood at home for up to 14 days. This includes people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and people living in care homes.
A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that is put on the tip of the finger. By regularly monitoring oxygen levels it can be easier to spot if COVID-19 symptoms are getting worse and whether people need treatment or support. People with COVID-19 may become very unwell if their oxygen levels fall too far.
The West of England AHSN is supporting the continued roll-out of ‘COVID Oximetry @home’ and ‘COVID virtual wards’ in our region. Our local support offer makes use of our existing expertise, infrastructure and resources.
Dr Alison Tavaré. Clinical Lead NHS@Home South West and West of England AHSN Primary Care Clinical Lead said:
“Many people with COVID-19 were living in residential homes and we realised that carers were being asked to monitor patients with little opportunity to have had any training; therefore this e-learning was co-developed by carers and clinicians. The aim is to provide a quick overview of COVID-19, how to use a pulse oximeter and most importantly give clear information on what to look out for and who to call if a carer is worried”.
This e-learning provides an overview of pulse oximetry for carers, including how to take the measurements and how to tell others if they are worried. It is designed to be used alongside the NHS pulse oximetry guidance.
During January and February 2021, we trained 48 care home managers in mental health awareness. The free training was delivered virtually by Bristol Mind with 94% of care homes managers who completed our post-training survey telling us it was helpful in supporting them to address their biggest concern around their staff’s wellbeing.
We have reflected on the positive feedback from cohort one and are now launching cohort two with six sessions available between 28 April and 28 June.
“This was a breath of fresh air, people wanting to engage, and talk about common situations, and positive ways to reduce risk and stress in the future. I have not really been asked how I was coping thorough this pandemic, so was initially difficult to answer.”
Clare Evans, Deputy Director of Service and System Transformation said:
“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has put extraordinary pressure on care staff and that many are struggling with the effects of the ongoing response. We know that care home managers and deputy managers care about their staff and may have already developed some initiatives to support their wellbeing. Our free training from Bristol Mind can expand and build up those initiatives and support managers and their teams.”
The online workshop will cover the following topics:
Looking after ourselves as managers and how we encourage others to do the same in the workplace
Starting a sensitive conversation about mental health and well-being
Recognising when self or employee getting overly stressed, anxious or low in mood
Coping with loss
Wellness action plans
Signposting to community based services for staff and the wider community
“Great to speak to other people going through the same situation, and who understand the reality of the situations faced on a daily basis”
This training is for managers and deputy managers. Please ensure only one booking per care home, thank you. If you are a manager in supported living or domiciliary care, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss booking.
If you have any queries, or are experiencing any barriers that may prevent you from signing up, please do contact us at email@example.com and we will try to help.
We are running a free programme of initiatives to support care homes in Bath, North East and North Somerset, Swindon, Wiltshire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire. We are also offering free training on recognising deterioration in care settings through tools like RESTORE2 – find out more and book here.
During the pandemic, reduced oxygen saturation levels have been shown to be a key identifier of deterioration in patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. COVID Oximetry @home uses pulse oximeters for patients to safely self-monitor their condition at home, providing an opportunity to detect a decline in their condition that might require hospital review and admission.
The programme is managed by NHS England and NHS Improvement, in partnership with NHSX and NHS Digital.
From a starting point of 20% of Clinical Commissioning Groups in November 2020, 100% of CCGs had established a fully operational COVID Oximetry @home pathway by early February.
Patient Safety Collaboratives (hosted by Academic Health Science Networks) supported this rapid spread by working closely with CCGs in their region to offer quality improvement expertise, access to training and resources, data collection and evaluation, and by facilitating a national learning network.
The COVID virtual ward model is a secondary-care-led initiative, using remote pulse oximetry monitoring to support early and safe discharge from hospital (step-down care) for COVID patients. 94% of acute trusts now have access to a COVID virtual ward, an increase of 69% since the beginning of the year.
Natasha Swinscoe, national patient safety lead for the AHSN Network and Chief Executive Officer of the West of England AHSN, said:
‘We have learned so much during this pandemic, and this impressive uptake in the use of pulse oximetry has undoubtedly saved lives. It has also allowed us to ensure, where appropriate, we can provide safe care for vulnerable people shielding at home through simple, remote monitoring.
‘I’m proud of the role Patient Safety Collaboratives have taken, providing support and assistance ‘on the ground’ to establish completely new ways of working in such a short space of time.’
This intensive PSC support to implement these pathways is due to wind down at the end of March 2021, with AHSNs continuing to support systems to embed @home models in the long-term.
A year on since the start of the pandemic, Consultant Acute Physician, Matt Inada Kim, reflects on the simple device (a pulse oximeter) that has been a lifeline for thousands of COVID patients & transformed the way the NHS delivers care.
The West of England AHSN is proud to announce diversity and cohesion specialists BCohCo, have been appointed to support our diversity and inclusion programme.
Following a successful tender process, BCohCo will be working across the AHSN to review how we ensure diversity, inclusion, cohesion and equality are embedded as core values across our organisation and work programmes. Innovation, quality improvement and collaboration will remain core commitments as we explore and progress on this journey.
This exciting next step builds on our existing equality, diversity and inclusivity commitments which include a series of Diversity Pledges agreed across the AHSN Network (which is made up of the 15 AHSNs across England, of which the West of England is one). We will now be working with BCohCo to co-develop an action plan setting out how we achieve these pledges.
To continue to celebrate the diversity of the region in which we live and work, and ensure inclusive work programmes that have equality as a core value, we also signed the Bristol Equality Charter in September 2020.
Chief Executive, and chair of the Diversity and Inclusivity Group, Natasha Swinscoe said:
“As an AHSN, we have a leadership role in championing and developing diversity within our NHS innovation pipeline, our organisation and across the West of England region. Our Diversity and Inclusivity Group, and the broader organisation, are committed to learning and making real progress on this important journey.
We look forward to working with BCohCo to ensure equality, diversity, cohesion and inclusivity is embedded in what we do, how we work together and the decisions we make”.
Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi, Inclusion and Cohesion Specialist from BCohCo Ltd said:
“‘Given the events of 2020 we have been left with a lot of questions about difference, fairness and belonging. By bringing BCohCo (Building Cohesive Communities) on board, the West of England AHSN have demonstrated their commitment to starting these conversations honestly, openly and authentically.
We look forward to working together, in these very unusual times”.
As an Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), we have a leadership role to play in championing and developing diversity, inclusivity and equality within our NHS innovation pipeline and our own organisation. To continue to celebrate the diversity of the region in which we live and work and ensure inclusive work programmes that have equality as a core value, we have signed the Bristol Equality Charter. Whilst this charter focuses on the city of Bristol, the AHSN covers a regional footprint and will therefore be working to ensure these principles guide our work across the region.
The AHSN Network (which is made up of the 15 AHSNs across England, of which the West of England is one) has also committed to a series of Diversity Pledges, and we are now developing an action plan setting out how we will achieve these goals.
Chief Executive and chair of the West of England AHSN’s Diversity and Inclusivity Steering Group, Natasha Swinscoe said:
“Support for signing the Bristol Equality Charter was unanimous with a sense that this was an early step on an important journey for our organisation. Along with our core values, the pledge that “everybody counts” is at the heart of what we do, from patient safety, our learning disability collaborative through to digital inclusion.
We intend to become an active voice in the Bristol Equality Network and work with Inclusivity and Diversity experts to ensure we are taking every step we can to promote equality and ensure all our communities have an active voice and visibility”.
About Bristol Equality Charter
The Bristol Equality Charter is a city-wide initiative co-designed by private, public and voluntary sector organisations, committed to improving equality of opportunity for everyone in Bristol and to eliminating discrimination in all its forms.
Bristol is a vibrant city with a growing diverse population. As citizens and partners we share an ambition to create a fairer, safer, inclusive city where everyone can feel that they belong, have a voice and an equal chance to succeed and thrive. We acknowledge that we all have a part to play in promoting equality for the city by working towards good practice and making continuous improvements.
Individuals and any type of organisation can sign up to the principles of the Bristol Equality Charter. Signing the charter is a voluntary action to promote and work towards equality in Bristol. Organisations are free to set their own specific priorities and goals for improvement.
Whilst there are already several more specific charters and manifestos in existence, the Bristol Equality Charter is unique to our city and addresses all aspects of equality in one document. The charter invites signatories to work together towards continuous improvement.
The development of the charter has led to the formation of a Bristol Equality Network. This is a group of individuals representing the equalities agenda within their organisations. The network meets regularly to support new organisations that sign up to the charter, and share information and good practice.
Local people and organisations can help to promote the Bristol Equality Charter by sharing what equality and the charter mean to them, using the hashtag #BristolEqualityCharter.
For more information about the Bristol Equality Charter and how to get involved please visit the council’s website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An accessible video of the Bristol Equality Charter with BSL translation, subtitles and voice over is available here.
Noshin Menzies, Senior Project Manager, shares her experiences of launching a Quality Improvement programme during COVID.
If you’d told me 4 months ago we would be where we are today with PERIPRem, I’d have wondered what planet you were from. This exciting, ambitious care bundle, the vision of two extraordinary neonatologists, was going to launch in April and change the way that perinatal care is delivered across the entire South West region. It was a seed reliant on collaboration. However, 2020 had other plans…
The fundamentals of PERIPRem – nurturing a regional clinical community dedicated to improving outcomes for our most vulnerable babies and working side by side with women and their families – were, in an instant, stopped in their tracks.
Pre-COVID, I had been lucky enough to attend the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s “Let’s Talk about Race” event for International Women’s Day. The stories I heard further cemented the commitment we had to reducing inequalities. We could not deliver a perinatal quality improvement project without ensuring that we were actively listening – and considering how to chip away at the barriers that result in Black and Minority Ethnic women being 5 times more likely to die in childbirth and their children to experience poorer outcomes. This was even before we knew the increased risk of COVID to people of colour and the raised chance of preterm labour for those women unfortunate enough to contract the virus whilst pregnant.
Just as we finalised plans for launch, and to get out into the communities and find every opportunity to involve those who lives are imprinted by the experience of preterm birth, COVID hit. Our PERIPRem teams were now on the battle lines, and we were nestled behind our laptop screens, shell shocked. Our ability to be agile and adapt to novel ways of working mattered now more than ever.
I’ll admit, I was sceptical how we could launch what was still a seedling of a programme to twelve units across the whole of the South West, when we were unable to leave our kitchens, let alone realise our plans to provide fertile ground for the creation of a regional PERIPRem clinical community. Without a physical launch, how could we provide space for those small but mighty moments, that when cultivated, have more of an impact than any toolkit or presentation?
I often struggle when I have to describe QI; in my experience it is much bigger than a framework or a process by which you can input your problem and wait for gold-standard results. For me, QI has its foundations in the people, the team and the culture. It is the introductions to new faces, teams huddled together around meeting tables, clinicians whispering to colleagues they had not seen for years and the camaraderie brewed alongside the substandard coffee. We grow highly functioning teams, and the most exciting part of any QI project, on these blocks. It was boom or bust but I needn’t have worried.
We have formed strong bonds as a PERIPRem team; we have even managed a team social. My treasured counterpart in the South West AHSN and I have never met, we joke that we do not know what each other look like from the shoulders down. We have bonded over the many cameos from the PERIPRem teams’ children – or Assistant QI Coaches as they are now known.
Most importantly, the PERIPRem perinatal teams have flourished. Whilst in the pressure cooker of the pandemic, we gave space and time to focus on delivering patient care – when they got a handle on what it meant for them as clinicians, they came back raring to go. We have digitised all of our resources and are now holding webinars on each of the bundle elements – they are so well attended we cannot fit on a screen!
People have pushed through discomfort to record themselves sharing the clinical fundamentals and to provide the presence (all be it through a screen) we all miss. We are exploring new ways to engage with the women we were so keen to meet and listen to, and we are forever indebted to our patient representatives who are now pillars of our PERIPRem team.
The takeaway message from that tired trope of “these unprecedented times” is that we are stronger than we think. At the end of each exhausting day, when we have had our fill of fighting for bandwidth with Xboxing teenagers, with tired mouths from calmly saying, “you’re on mute”, we have been and will continue to be successful. More significantly, we have supported frazzled teammates, butted horns and laughed until we cried.
There is a sense of freedom this way of working has granted us. Whilst before, there was a tendency to stick to the tried and tested method of engaging and working with our clinical communities, COVID allowed us to think again. We used technology to enable hospital teams scattered across the entire southwest to meaningfully engage in PERIPRem without ever having to leave their wards. I was worried connecting through screens and keyboards would reinforce the distance between us all, but I am surprised to realise that it has in fact accelerated relationships and in turn progress.
Having to rely on the written word in email has meant that tone and intonation have been more carefully considered and the periods of chat offered through video calls means each sentence really counts. Of more significance, is a flattening of the hierarchy within our team. Each person no matter what their seniority is vital in keeping the PERIPRem wheel turning – be it because they know how to record a MS Teams meeting, or because they have the complex clinical knowledge of a perinatal intervention. It is not that we did not appreciate this before, but the situation forced us to see beyond the limitations of a job description.
I have reflected on whether, upon return to ‘normality’, if we as a team will revert to the pre-COVID way of working. Whilst I would like to think there would be a time when we are able to sit in offices and meet with units, I do not think that is the whole question. I can honestly say I hope we do not – I do not want to forget our swift response to the restrictions placed on us, or our unwavering faith in our ability to make improvements.
I believe that we have fundamentally changed the way we will approach projects such as this in the future. We are braver in our ways of facilitating community, we have lived experience of delivering change programmes utilising technology rather than travel and we know that when needed, we can free ourselves of the legacy of traditional and more restrictive ways of working.
Wessex and the West of England Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), and West Hampshire CCG, funded by Health Education England, have collaborated to produce a series of free videos and e-learning materials to support staff working in care homes to care for residents who are at risk of deterioration.
As recognised in a recent paper supported by North East and North Cumbria AHSN, identifying acute illness, including sepsis, amongst older adults in care homes can be difficult, and opportunities to initiate appropriate care may be missed, if illness is not recognised promptly.
The short videos describe how to take measurements from residents correctly (such as blood pressure and oxygen saturation), spots the signs of deterioration, and prevent the spread of infection.
You can access them via Health Education England’s e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH) Hub, an educational web-based platform that provides quality assured online training content for the UK’s health and care workforce here.
Natasha Swinscoe, national lead for patient safety for the AHSN Network says:
“Patient safety is a guiding principle for all AHSNs. Our care homes report highlighted numerous successes that AHSNs have had working with care homes across the country. Collectively, these have the potential to save many lives and tens of millions of pounds. I am excited to see the launch of these videos, which will support care home staff to be trained in a consistent way to recognise and respond to the soft signs of deterioration”.
This is one of a range of tools which AHSNs are supporting to provide training materials to up skill people who work in care homes, which will be published on our website over the coming weeks. This follows the AHSN network report, which highlighted over 30 examples of projects delivered by England’s 15 Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) and the AHSNs which host them, published in September 2019.
Guidance for care home staff to register for an account
Select the ‘Register’ button. Select the option ‘I am a care home or hospice worker’ then enter your care home / hospice name or postcode and select it from the options available in the drop-down list. Finally enter your care home / hospice registration code and select ‘Register’. You may need to see your employer to get this code.
If your employer does not have a code, then they need to contact the e-LfH Support Team. The Support Team can either give the employer the registration code or arrange a bulk upload of all staff.
An online citizen innovation platform has been launched to bring together members of the public living with different health conditions to share ideas and help develop the next generation of healthcare products.
Design Together, Live Better connects citizens (patients, carers, family members, friends or anyone interested in health) with companies and entrepreneurs to co-create new healthcare solutions based on real needs.
“We need to make better use of people’s insights into their own conditions and lives; they are the experts in what would make life easier and, more specifically, what’s missing and what could be created to help.” Lars Sundstrom, Enterprise Director
Two healthcare projects are already live on the platform and seeking citizen input: a speech therapy app called ‘Intelligent Sounds’, which could be used by people who have suffered strokes or head injuries or have Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis; and the ‘Music Memory Box’ which helps people with dementia to recall memories.
The Design Together, Live Better platform has been developed by the West of England AHSN and was launched at the ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ event in Swindon in April.
The event explored and celebrated the increasing role members of the public play in the co-design and co-production of new products, as it is being recognised that people living with challenging health conditions are best placed to see what features are needed in new products and technologies.
Hilary Newiss, chair of the health and social care charity coalition National Voices, was the event’s key note speaker. Hilary has been central to developing recommendations as part of the NHS Accelerated Access Review on putting patients at the centre of health care.
Three patients-turned-innovators also shared their inspiring stories of designing new products in response to their own health conditions.
Michael Seres invented the Ostom-iAlert after receiving a bowel transplant and discovered a need to improve how he monitored and shared data on his condition with health professionals.
Kevin Mashford was born with congenital heart disease and has spent all his life in and out of hospital. Kevin developed Mi Heart, both a patient app and clinician platform enabling the efficient communication of symptoms, appointments, vital statistics and medication.
Iain Stevenson has type 2 diabetes and has used his IT background both to manage his condition and develop his technology, Soupdragon, the Trustwall API which enables individuals to securely manage their digital identity and personal data, and choose how to share this with health professionals.
However not everyone living with a health condition is in a position to develop their own solution, which is why the West of England Academic Health Science Network has developed the Design Together, Live Better platform to facilitate meaningful dialogue between patients and companies and gather user input.
Delegates at the event were given the opportunity to help share their ideas to shape and develop this new platform, which is currently at beta-testing stage.
Lars Sundstrom, Enterprise Director at the West of England AHSN, says: “We need to make better use of people’s insights into their own conditions and lives; they are the experts in what would make life easier and, more specifically, what’s missing and what could be created to help.
“Our new innovation platform will do exactly that by putting people in touch with each other, to co-design and co-create the next generation of innovative healthcare products so that they precisely match currently unmet needs. I am really excited about this – it could be a real game changer!”
We are keen to work with innovators looking to co-design and test their innovators with users. If you are an innovator with a new concept or product being developed, find out more about connecting with the Design Together, Live Better community at designtogetherlivebetter.org/innovators.
In partnership with Sirona Care & Health and North Bristol NHS Trust, our Human Factors programme offers tailored training to support staff working in community health settings. A toolkit has been developed, supported by face-to-face train-the-trainer sessions and collaborative events for shared learning and problem solving.
Stephen Early is a service user and volunteer with Sirona who has been actively involved in the development of this training programme, from designing scenarios to reflect realistic situations that staff might encounter to giving talks at staff inductions.
This is Stephen’s story, introduced by Karen Gleave, Project Lead for Sirona Care & Health.
Stephen is a service user living in one of our Extra Care Services, and currently is a volunteer with Sirona Care & Health and sits on the service user panel/forum.
I met Stephen just over a year ago when I approached members of the panel about working with me to provide a service user’s perspective for the Sirona support worker induction on what it is like to receive a service.
Once Stephen started it became quickly apparent that he was a “natural” talking with people and able to get his message across about how important communication and human factors are when supporting people. Stephen is able to bring the scenarios alive for the audience, has made people laugh and at times brought people to tears.
Stephen is a very inspirational person and has touched the lives of many. The feedback we receive after each induction is really very positive…
It really shows the great value that service users can make to organisations and how they can help to shape future services.
Unfortunately I’ve caught pneumonia about six or seven times, and on about four or five occasions I’ve been took into hospital…
… because I was living by myself I’ve had problems with eating for about six years.
… one of the things they do here is try and make me eat and drink so they make me a sandwich now and then, or every time they come in, no matter what they’re going to do they always make me a cup of tea and put it in front of me, and I feel if they’ve made me a cup of tea, then I should drink it, even thought I don’t feel thirsty if that makes sense, and when I go up to Karen’s they the same, everyone does the same. “Tea Steve!” and it’s great.
So one day the doorbell went and the lady came in and she was a support worker. I think she was, I’m not sure now. She came in and said [grunting] “Alright.”
Well, straight away you know that you were not going to have a conversation with this lady about anything and the worst thing is that these sort of five, ten minutes ones which you might get spread out between the day, maybe three times, maybe four, not sure, all depends on what your needs are, are very important to everyone because it’s communication. It’s talking to someone.
And loneliness in these sort of places is quite bad actually because you know it has an effect on them and on their health as well. Because if you’re feeling down, you’re more likely I feel to get things wrong with you and depressed and things like that, so it’s quite important when people come in that they’re a bit… and say things. So when she came in I knew straight away I wasn’t going to have a conversation with her.
Now if I was feeling a bit unwell or anything like that, or had troubles or things, I wouldn’t have talked to her about it because I knew she wasn’t in the right mood to receive any sort of information. And then she came and said, “Got to make you a drink.” Now “got to”, so that hit me home that “got to” is not “Oh, I’m going to make you a…”, “Got to make you a drink. Can’t understand why you can’t do it yourself.” That was a little whisper underneath the voice.
And then the sandwiches… “What do you want in your sandwiches?” I said, “Well anything please” and then again I heard her say, “Can’t understand why you can’t do it yourself” and then she left. And as soon as she left I got up and I chucked the tea down the sink, and I put her sandwiches in the bin because I wasn’t going to eat or drink anything from someone who didn’t’ want to do anything for me and it made me feel really bad.
So that went on for about six or seven weeks. I stopped taking food, and when they did make me food I just tipped in the bin, and the drinks, because I felt like no one wanted to do it and they didn’t understand me. They didn’t’ understand my problems. They just thought I was lazy. So it didn’t matter if they came in happy or joyful, I would still do it. That was quite a bad experience.
And then a good experience was one lady come to see me, well lots of them. And they come in and ring the bell [brightly] “Hi Steve!” Straight away you know you’re going to have a positive talk to that person and positive reaction. And you’re going to say to that person if there is something troubling you, you’re going to mention it to them, you know, “Oh I don’t feel too good today… Oh I’ve got this problem” or whatever.
And the other thing is they come in and say, “What have you been up to today? What’s been going on? What are you going to do this afternoon?” All them little things, you know, it helps the conversation to go through and it is brilliant. “Oh,” she said, “Is it two sugars, Steve, innit? It’s two innit?” Them little things, it’s not like “Oh, I gotta make you a cup of tea” or anything like that. It’s “I’m going to put in two sugars.” Some don’t even talk about it they just do it and bring it out and put on the table which is brilliant so it’s them sort of things…
…unfortunately the people, some of the residents we have here, I call them my family because they are they’re all my family, and I tell them that. Anyway, they’ve got problems some of them and some of them suffer with memory loss, Alzheimer’s, so they’re not able and some of them can’t speak properly and they cannot relay to the support workers what it means, what they mean to us and they mean everything.
I call all of my support workers “my ladies” because that’s what they are. They’re my ladies. And they’re here… if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here, they mean so much. Doesn’t matter if they come in and make me a cup of tea or just the simplest of things like help me taking off my shoes. My legs swell up around about half past two in the afternoon. They come in and take my shoes off and they always make me a cup of tea when they do it, and they have a little chat whilst they do it, and it means so much.
And I’m able when I go on my induction days to translate to them what they actually mean to people like me and the rest of the residents what they’re doing. Their job’s just as much important as a doctor or anyone like that because they’re doing something to help and they’re not only helping in the sense of doing something like giving someone tablets at the right time or doing some domestic or whatever or making sure someone eats. They’re actually talking to that person, which is fantastic, which makes them feel good.
… if I can hit that one person at induction day and she stays doing caring for maybe ten years? So she might see thousands and thousands of people on her journey through her career. If she carries that through, with all of them, what a magnificent difference that’s going to make! So that’s how I think of it.
Stephen was the winner of Sirona Volunteer of the Year 2015 for his work on the project:
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