However, we realised there was little support available for people with a learning disability. Information available at the time was either irrelevant, inappropriate or failed to address the public health issue we were working on.
Fortunately, one of my colleagues knew Rob, a learning disability nurse who worked in our local community. Rob’s responsibility was to improve and maintain the physical and mental health of people with learning disabilities and reduce barriers to them living an independent fulfilled life. Rob had such a great commitment to his job and was really keen to work with us.
Our collective task was to create visual aids for our clients with learning disability and Rob rose to the challenge. My team put together the relevant information and Rob set about putting together a play that would deliver our message. He worked with the superb theatre company, The Misfits, a Bristol-based company who are led by, and for, people with learning disabilities. Six weeks later my team were invited to join Rob to see the production that he and the actors had created. It really was an excellent piece and without Rob and The Misfits we could never have delivered the programme so well. It was creative, fun and made important messages accessible to our clients.
Please take a moment this week to celebrate our learning disability nurses, the amazing and important work they do and the people they support. Rob, is one of many, often unseen and uncelebrated, specialist nurses who make such a massive difference, not only to their clients but also their families, and to our communities.
This important specialism has been hard hit by the loss of bursaries as it traditionally attracts more mature people rather than school leavers. The one remaining specialist degree course was last year in danger of closing and the University of the West of England has worked closely with employers in the region to ensure its survival.
However, despite the challenges, learning disability services are in place across the region and very willing to work with other services to ensure that all services are accessible to people with learning disabilities. It’s all of our responsibility to be learning disability aware and bring in specialist support for any of our patients or clients that need it to ensure the best health outcomes.
If you’d like to find out more about The Misfits you can visit their webpages. I’d highly recommend their productions to anyone.