Comment

Speaking up for assessment and treatment services

Taking on the recovery process following The Winterbourne View scandal and repairing opinions of treatment services. 
Speaking out

Taking on the recovery process following The Winterbourne View scandal and repairing opinions of treatment services

Reading about assessment and treatment services, as a charge nurse working currently in one, can be disheartening and frustrating, yet motivating and inspiring. There have been atrocities in learning disability care over the years that cannot, and should not, be overlooked: they are a disgrace to the nursing profession and the sector.

The Winterbourne View scandal will be etched into the memories everyone who works with people who have a learning disability.

Unfortunately, the discovery of the horrible abuse there tarnished the reputation of every assessment and treatment service.

There are services that provide consistent, compassionate, courageous and competent care for people with learning disabilities, and they include assessment and treatment hospitals. When community services and family circumstances are pushed into crisis, when

...

Taking on the recovery process following The Winterbourne View scandal and repairing opinions of treatment services

Reading about assessment and treatment services, as a charge nurse working currently in one, can be disheartening and frustrating, yet motivating and inspiring. There have been atrocities in learning disability care over the years that cannot, and should not, be overlooked: they are a disgrace to the nursing profession and the sector.

Speaking out
Picture: Getty images

The Winterbourne View scandal will be etched into the memories everyone who works with people who have a learning disability.

Unfortunately, the discovery of the horrible abuse there tarnished the reputation of every assessment and treatment service.

There are services that provide consistent, compassionate, courageous and competent care for people with learning disabilities, and they include assessment and treatment hospitals. When community services and family circumstances are pushed into crisis, when a person becomes acutely unwell, hospital treatment can be the most appropriate treatment available.  

Speaking from experience

I have experience of working in a specialist learning disability and autism assessment and treatment service. I work with a team of nurses overseen by a manager and a deputy, both of whom are qualified learning disability nurses, a full multidisciplinary team and a team of support staff.

This is a challenging workplace that can present as high risk at times, as we attempt to help and care for people who present with extreme behaviour that challenges, and to support them throughout the day and night.

We are constantly being told that there is no need for assessment and treatment services and how people need ‘homes not hospitals’. This is frustrating to hear and read about for two reasons.

First, when people access the service they are, at times, a danger to themselves or others. This can mean they are detained under the Mental Health Act, but not always. They have an outstanding, unmet need that is causing them to become unsettled and causing disruption to their lives.

Highs and lows

We, as professionals in a service, have expertise in a safe and secure setting to help assess, using a variety of tools and skill sets, and then treat, using a variety of methods and interventions, so that our residents can live as full and independent a life as possible. I have been involved in the success of this process on many occasions, watching an individual become more settled and happier.

I have also personally experienced and witnessed traumas, such as violence and aggression – to the point of having broken bones – and serious and sustained self-injurious behaviours. The extent of these behaviours means that certain individuals cannot be managed in ‘idealised’ community settings.

Second, I have witnessed people who have successfully been supported through an assessment and treatment process, who are ready to be discharged to have a fuller and more independent life out of hospital, only to remain as inpatients because a place for them cannot be found.

Meeting after meeting, with no progress in finding a ‘home for life’ for someone who is ready to move onto the next stage. To be then told that hospitals are ‘unnecessary’ is enraging to those of us who are fighting to get people who don’t require inpatient care out of it.

Vital services 

Assessment and treatment services are absolutely necessary – I know because I have seen people transformed from uncontrolled and unstable to settled and happy. Without these services people will be injured and families will be broken by the pressures they will encounter.

Support workers who are paid minimum wage encounter violence and aggression, self-injury, verbal abuse and heart-breaking depression and other mental health conditions. They work tirelessly to ensure high standards of care and compassion are delivered at the front line, backed by qualified professionals who believe whole-heartedly in everything they do.

The stigmatisation of services such as this denies and negates the fantastic, professional and life-changing work that goes on behind those closed doors.


Jennifer Mytton is a charge nurse at Wast Hills Autism Service, Kings Norton, Birmingham

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