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Increasing awareness of learning disabilities is high on the agenda

Learning Disability self advocates at University Hospitals Plymouth

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust regularly engages with local user groups and self-advocates from local partnerships in order to ensure that the needs of patients with learning disabilities are being met.

Over the last few months, the Learning Disability Liaison Nursing Team hosted a number of training events and focus groups across Plymouth, in order to increase the awareness of learning disabilities, and to continue to improve ways in which University Hospitals Plymouth can support patients and visitors.

Jill Singh, a Learning Disability Consultant Advocate for Devon Link Up, who works alongside the Learning Disability Liaison Nursing Team, regularly delivers learning disability awareness training sessions to groups of student health care assistants.

“The course covers the definition and causes of a learning disability, how to develop communication and understanding, as well as legislation and the importance of accessible information,” explains Saoirse Read, Learning Disability Liaison Team Leader at the Trust.

“Students are keen to get an insight into learning disabilities and so we organise the courses to meet their requests. They are always interactive and full of activities.”

In April, members of the Derriford User Group (DUG) met with local MP Luke Pollard, in order to review feedback gathered from patients through the Trust’s recent Friends and Family Test.

“The group looked at feedback specifically from people with a learning disability, to compare their experiences and to see if any concerns could be addressed,” adds Saoirse. “The next step is to decide how DUG members feel that patient care can be improved and to report to the patient experience committee.”

The DUG have also been reviewing feedback gained from a ‘mystery shop’ activity held earlier in the year, where several wards regularly accessed by patients with a learning disability were visited by self-advocates from PLUSS, The Regard Parnership, Thera South West and Michael Batt Foundation.

“DUG members are keen to follow-up with how the feedback is being taken on board by the Trust,” said Saoirse. “Overall, the feedback from the ‘mystery shop’ is positive, although one suggestion that has come to light is for staff to receive more specific training on reasonable adjustments.”

The Learning Disability Liaison Nursing Team have recently celebrated their Specialist Learning Disability Liaison Acute Health Care Assistant, Fiona Dilorenzo, winning a Royal College of Nursing institute (RCNi) award. Fiona supports patients who may otherwise find attending a hospital appointment a very difficult experience. An example is Fiona’s recent visit to a user group at The Vine, a community day centre, to give advice about the help and support that is available for visits to Derriford Hospital and how to gain access to this.

To find out more about the Learning Disability Service at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust and how they can help you, please visit

You can also find out more about DUG and how to get involved here:

The Learning Disability Liaison Nursing Team have now established a Facebook page in conjunction with Devon Link Up. Please like their page to keep up to date with DUG and the team’s activities:


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