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Trust launches campaign to improve care for patients with learning disabilities or autism

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) is today (Monday 28 March) proud to announce the launch of a campaign that aims to improve care for patients with learning disabilities or autism.

The campaign, entitled Different. Not less. aims to promote a better understanding of autism and learning disabilities and to support the delivery of equality in care for all patients. It encourages staff to avoid making assumptions about autistic patients or those with learning disabilities and to listen to them and their families.

The campaign provides information about autism and learning disabilities with guidance on some of the dos, don’ts and includes myth-busting – an important area is the myth that autistic people or those with learning disabilities do not feel pain in the same way. It also gives information on the language to use and signposts to useful sites to help.

MTW has organised autism reality experience* training for staff across all areas of the Trust to help increase understanding of the hypersensitivity that can be caused by the actions of others and by the hospital environment. The training provides the experience of what autism is like and how simple changes to clinical practice and the hospital environment can improve the hospital experience for autistic patients or those with learning disabilities.

Philippa Routs, Learning Disability Liaison Nurse at the Trust commented: “There are currently 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and 700,000 autistic people in the UK. Many of these experience difficulties accessing healthcare, especially when unwell.

“Even summoning up the courage to make an appointment or talking on the telephone can be difficult. This campaign aims to help us better understand autism and ensure all our patients receive the best level of care during their hospital visit.”

MTW NHS Trust’s Chief Executive Miles Scott, said: “We are proud to launch the Different. Not less. campaign here at the Trust. Our staff always strive to deliver the best level of care for all of our patients, but there is always opportunity to learn and improve the care we provide.

“By wearing the campaign badge it shows patients our commitment to delivering the best care and that we will listen to them and their families.”

The Not less. campaign was first launched by Medway NHS Trust in 2020 and was created by Ginny Bowbrick – a consultant vascular surgeon and mother of autistic twins with severe learning disabilities. Ginny created the campaign after watching the Panorama programme in May 2019 that included shocking scenes from Whorlton Hall where vulnerable adults were being verbally and physically abused by those who were meant to be caring for them.

The campaign has also received high-profile backing from Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins, the founder of Beyond Words, a charity that provides books and training to support people who find pictures easier to understand than words.

Click here to watch a video explaining more about the campaign.

*The Autism Reality Experience is provided by Training 2 Care Ltd and some 20,000 people undertake this training every year in the UK.

If you are a patient with learning difficulties or autism, or a family, friend or carer, you can find out more about how MTW can support your care at our hospitals by visiting Learning Disability and/or Autism – Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (mtw.nhs.uk)