To mark World Autism Acceptance Week we are running a range of activities to increase understanding of the specific, often hidden sensory and communication needs experienced by people who are on the autism spectrum.
Our dedicated Learning Disability & Autism Liaison Team, which supports patients with ASD seven days a week, is hosting additional staff training sessions throughout April. We are also promoting the use of a hospital passport for Autistic people. The passport documents each patient’s specific needs in a way that is accessible and clear to our staff.
North Bristol NHS Trust Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Steve Hams, said:
“We are absolutely committed to providing responsive, tailored and high quality care for people with autism, who can often find coming in to hospital a stressful and difficult experience.
“Every single person is different, and the processes we have in place ensure we make every effort to make the individual reasonable adjustments required, this way we can make a huge difference to their experience here at Southmead Hospital and in the long term for the health.
“I know many teams have made big improvements to the way they identify and meet the needs of people on the autism spectrum, but there is a lot more we can do, and we will be keeping this very high on our agenda over the coming years.”
Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. While people with ASD often have many strengths, including a strong attention to detail, honesty, and creativity, they may also need more time to process information, greater consideration of their sensory needs, may struggle to meet new people, and may find new environments overwhelming. We recognise therefore that hospitals are a real challenge!
Through a Learning Disability and Autism Steering Group which launched in 2019, we are continuously striving to make improvements to the experience of our patients with a Learning Disability, Autism or both.
NBT staff are being trained to understand how making reasonable adjustments can support these additional needs. These include providing quiet space, listening carefully, giving extra time and explanation, and working more closely with carers and families.
Last year, some NBT staff took part in the Oliver McGowan national pilot training programme for NHS staff. The Trust is currently waiting for NHSE/I’s evaluation and decision whether to make it mandatory for all staff..
We were awarded a Workforce Disability Equality Standard Innovation Award in 2020 which funded our project to raise awareness and produce a directory and tool kit. This included training for staff to become buddies to support neurodiverse staff. This work has helped establish a Neurodiverse Staff Group and staff on the spectrum are welcome to join this. They also manage their own WhatsApp group.