'Nurse of the year is a champion for patients with learning disabilities'

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'Nurse of the year is a champion for patients with learning disabilities'

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In 2009, neglect at a hospital in Wales contributed to the death of Paul Ridd, a patient with learning disabilities. His brother Jonathan explains how the RCN Nurse of the Year 2017 Melanie Davies worked with his family to champion changes in learning disabilities care

The personal involvement of my sister Jayne and I with Melanie Davies began after the death of our dear brother Paul in 2009, at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.


Melanie (left) with Paul Ridd's sister Jayne and brother Jonathan. 

The ombudsman said the care he received had been 'dire', and that neglect and poor training were factors in his death. 

Eight years on, Melanie is the lead learning disability champion for Morriston Hospital. She championed the changes introduced after our brother's death and, as a result, has improved patient experiences in secondary care for people with learning disabilities. 

During our campaign to bring about change in the NHS for people with learning disabilities, Melanie proved to be a source of unwavering support and inspiration. Having a close family member with a learning disability herself, Melanie was empathetic to our cause. She has gone above and beyond her professional role, to ensure patients receive the level of hospital care they deserve.

On a daily basis, she strives to ensure reasonable adjustments are made, actioned and implemented to safeguard patients with learning disabilities. 

Guiding and inspiring 

Her role at Morriston Hospital is vital. Other NHS staff can turn to her to seek guidance and support to ensure they are following the correct pathway for patients with learning disabilities. 

Thanks to Melanie, patients now have tailored care with reasonable adjustments made to meet their needs. This helps to alleviate anxiety for patients and their families and carers. 

Melanie guides and inspires other NHS staff with her high standards and values, and the level of care for patients with learning disabilities has improved enormously throughout the hospital. Melanie embodies what you would hope for from a health professional: she values everyone as an individual, whether they are a patient or family member. 

Her outstanding communication skills enable her to connect with individuals and deliver clear information, and as the brother of someone who had profound learning disabilities, I know this is essential.

Beyond a professional post

Her genuine care for others sees her following patients' journeys throughout their hospital stay, ensuring any requirements are met, securing a safe and stress-free discharge, and putting healthcare plans in place for when they leave the ward. 

Melanie acts as a link to the Paul Ridd Foundation (PRF) through her professional post, but she goes way beyond her duty here too. She has spent numerous hours volunteering with the PRF to support work to increase awareness across the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. She has established herself as our acute services adviser and has supported many of our meetings and events. 

She is a regular at our training sessions, adding immense value, as she can relate to the demands on NHS staff and offers a professional and practical view on implementing change. 

Without Melanie's dedication to the care of patients with learning disabilities, the PRF would not have had the impact it has had so far on the health boards of Wales, and we are grateful.