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Nursing Times Awards shortlist for Sunderland partnership project

A partnership project across health, social care and higher education in Sunderland to improve the health of people with learning disabilities has been shortlisted for a national Nursing Times Award (NTA) 2019.

Promoting Equity in Physical Health Screening – a collaborative initiative between the University of Sunderland, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – was nominated in the Learning Disabilities Nursing category.

There are growing concerns about the health of those with learning disabilities, who have a significantly lower life expectancy than the general population and are at higher risk of certain diseases including diabetes, hearing loss, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Over the past two years, the partnership generated key strategies to make physical healthcare for people with learning disabilities across the region accessible and a positive experience as well as reduce inequalities through initiatives such as pop-up clinics which offer health screenings, results and advice in a relaxed and familiar environment.

More use was also made of ‘near patient testing’ or Point of Care Testing (POCT) used within the clinics. This testing uses advances in technology that allows people to have laboratory tests done quickly and easily. This type of testing uses advanced and portable handheld instruments, which are less invasive than traditional methods, in many cases using a small drop of blood from a finger prick test – getting accurate results in a very short period of time that can be presented to the patient quickly, and often on the same day as their appointment.

There was also the inclusion of hearing screening in the pop-up clinics to show how quick and easy assessment can be. Every single person who attended had their hearing screened, and a range of conditions were found such as perforated eardrums, infections and possible hearing loss, which had not been detected prior to the screening,

Karen Giles Principal Lecturer at the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, said: “It’s fantastic to be recognised at a national level by the NTA through the nomination process. Our partnership worked together to solve a problem and improve the quality of people’s lives. We took an idea that started as just a question and through the process of working with people locally something positive has resulted.

“This is a celebration for us all. We are determined to be part of making physical healthcare for people with learning disabilities in Sunderland accessible and a positive experience. Pop-up clinics and POCT provides us with a model to do exactly that.”

The annual Nursing Times Awards highlight excellence in a wide range of nursing specialties from mental health to clinical research, the awards also provide the opportunity to congratulate peers, leaders and the brightest talent entering the profession.

Linda Reiling, Mental Health Learning Disability and Autism Commissioner for Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “I felt incredibly proud when I found out about this nomination, this is a collaborative project which brings together different organisations across Sunderland who all continue to strive towards innovative approaches to delivering quality care to those with learning disabilities.

“Having these different organisations who are all bought into the overall vision to delivering innovate models of care is inspiring as well as having the opportunity to professionally develop our nursing workforce via skills and competency. Obviously, the main driver in our vision is to improve the physical health care of our learning disability patients which will help prevent premature mortality of these individuals.”

Dr Lynzee McShea, a Senior Clinical Scientist in Audiology at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was the Audiology lead for this project, said: “Hearing loss in people with learning disabilities is often overlooked or misdiagnosed with wide-reaching consequences.

“I am proud to represent the Audiology department of South Tyneside and Sunderland in such an innovative project to change attitudes and raise awareness.”

Ashley Murphy, Learning Disability and Autism Primary Care Programme Manager for Sunderland CCG and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, worked alongside the University and organised the pop-up clinics.

“This is a celebration for all of us. We are determined to be part of making physical healthcare for people with learning disabilities in Sunderland accessible and a positive experience. POCT provides us with a model to do exactly that.

“We have identified scores of individuals who have hearing loss, raised cholesterol and people who are potentially pre diabetic simply by screening these people with easy to use, non-anxiety provoking methods.”

The winners of the Nursing Times Awards 2019 will be announced on Wednesday 30 October 2019 in a glittering evening ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London.