University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust’s Learning Disability and Autism team were invited, along with DUG (Derriford Users Group) members, to a Parliamentary event in the House of Commons on the 15th June 2022. The event served as the launch of MENCAP’s latest report: Loneliness, Mental Health and Coronavirus: research findings as well as a good opportunity for attendees from across the country to share their experiences of living with a learning disability during the last few years.
Saoirse Read, learning disability and autism service manager and Jill Singh, who supports and co-ordinates DUG meetings and events, went to London last week with Alison and Antony, DUG members. The group was welcomed to Westminster with an afternoon high tea, where they were able to chat to campaigners and MPs about how to improve the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities. This was a good opportunity for DUG members to share their latest projects, including the recently launched Hospital Passport App.
During the event there were various speeches from Rt. Hon Mark Harper, MP and Minister of Civil Society MP Nigel Huddleston. A speech by MENCAP ambassador and myth buster Brendan Chivasa achieved a standing ovation for his honesty and bravery for sharing his personal story, covering experiences of disability hate crime and loneliness during COVID-19 resulting in poor mental health.
DUG members Alison and Antony both really connected to Brendan’s story of loneliness even now the pandemic is over. They plan to talk to other DUG members about the report at their next meeting, planned to take place in August, to look at this subject in more depth, to see how hospital staff can spot when someone’s loneliness might be impacting poorly on their mental health and then how staff can signpost people with a learning disability for help or support.
Derriford User Group (DUG) aims to provide those with learning disabilities a greater say when improving the patient experience in an acute care setting. DUG is a group of people with learning disabilities who have used Derriford hospital services and have been supporting UHP with improvements since 2010. Over the years they have made a real difference by doing mystery shops in the Trust, resulting in better signage; the initiative of having a communication box in all key wards and departments; campaigning for adapted changing facilities and bigger disabled toilets on level six; the co-production of the UHP reasonable adjustment charter and most recently, co-designing and trialling of the new digital version of the Hospital passport app.