Published on: 20 May 2024

Two Derbyshire NHS teams have been shortlisted at a national awards ceremony next month for their efforts to support local people with a learning disability and/or autism.

Both the Autism Assessment Team and Community Learning Disability team are in the running for awards at the National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards.

The awards celebrate excellence in the support of people with learning disabilities and aim to pay tribute to those individuals or organisations who excel in providing quality care.

The Autism Assessment Team are finalists for the Great Autism Practice Award, which recognises good autism practice to enhance quality of life for individuals, families and supporters by making reasonable adjustments or providing support developing strategies to increase happiness and wellbeing in people with autism.

The team was shortlisted for demonstrating a significant improvement in the patient journey through the service over the last year; while waiting times are still long due to demand for the service, the team has managed to reduce waiting times by almost 50% in the last two years. This was made possible through a much quicker turnaround of assessments. Reports have been made easier to access and write, which has also contributed to the positive reduction in waiting times.

The Community Learning Disability Service was shortlisted for the Making a Difference Award, which recognises a provider or person who has promoted inclusion and community cohesion through their work or role in the community – particularly where this has helped make a positive change happen in people’s lives.

The nomination focused on the team’s work to promote annual health checks by GPs for people with a learning disability, which are very important in highlighting physical health issues that might otherwise go undetected. As of March 2023, more than 25% of people on the learning disabilities register in Derbyshire had not had their annual health check. The Community Learning Disability teams have since focused their efforts to increase uptake for annual health checks by engaging with those who did not attend – and their carers – to better understand why people did not engage.

The team have since co-produced a project with people with lived experience to address local barriers and support improvement in a person-centred way, reducing health inequalities for people with a learning disability. This has resulted in a rising uptake of the health checks.

Both the Autism Assessment Team and the Community Learning Disability Team are part of the Adult Neurodevelopmental Service, which brings together services provided by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust and Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Libby Runcie, Head of Derbyshire’s Integrated Adult Neurodevelopmental Services, congratulated both teams for their efforts, and said: “Both services have worked exceptionally hard to improve health outcomes for patients who are neurodiverse and they have done so in a patient-focused way, aligning with the Trust’s values.

“Each shortlisted team is expected to attend an informal interview to talk about their projects with a panel of judges to explain how their work has positively impacted patients. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more and develop our services still further. A special thank you to Dr Ian Watkiss, one of our Consultant Clinical Psychologist, and Fiona Brettell, one of our Area Service Managers for Community Learning Disability team in Adult Neurodevelopmental Services, for their continued efforts with leading on these two areas.”

Vikki Ashton Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Delivery Officer at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Well done to both teams who are working hard to support those in the community who are autistic or have a learning disability. Both teams demonstrate innovation and positive practice to improve patient care outcomes, and are working hard to overcome significant challenges and rising demand to ensure that local people receive good quality services. I look forward to hearing the outcome of these awards in June.”

Winners are expected to be announced during a ceremony at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on Friday 21 June 2024.