Making a drama out of a crisis

Speaking up together performing 'Curing hospital hiccups' at the PRU
Speaking up together performing 'Curing hospital hiccups' at the PRU

Drama helped to get the message across at a recent event which highlighted how the length of stay has been reduced and the experience improved for people with a learning disability (LD) admitted to hospital for urgent acute care.

The Access to Acute Care Project was showcased at the Education Centre, Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH), Farnborough, on Thursday 20 December. 

The project was a joint initiative between our Community Learning Disability Team (CLDT) and staff at the PRUH, who work for South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT). It examined how the care experiences of urgently admitted patients with a learning disability could be improved by better and more timely partnership working between the CLDT and SLHT; particularly with regard to earlier intervention on the wards by CLDT nurses. 

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly a performance by Speaking up together, a drama group from Bromley Advocacy for All, a charity that supports people with a learning disability to get their voices heard. In ‘Curing hospital hiccups’ the players, most of whom have a learning disability, gave a moving and often hilarious performance which highlighted the need for healthcare professionals to communicate more effectively. Particularly memorable was ‘Dr Jargon’, whose dialogue consisted mainly of obscure medical terminology interspersed with the words “bla bla bla”. 

Project leads were, from Oxleas, Maz Marsham, Clinical Lead for Health Access, CLDT, Bromley; and from SLHT, Claire O’Brien, Deputy Chief Nurse and Patient Experience Lead. They developed a set of rules to promote improved communication between the two teams and established the requirement to provide face to face contact with patients within two working days of receiving a referral. These rules were developed and put into practice in the PRUH between November 2011 and April 2012.  

Reporting back on the findings, Maz said that before the new rules were implemented, the average length of stay for urgent admissions for a person with LD was 16 days. Following implementation, average length of stay in hospital was reduced to nine days saving around £50,000. There were also fewer readmissions and complaints.  

Iain Dimond, Director, Complex Adult Mental Health and Learning Disability Services, said: “This is a fantastic initiative looking at an aspect of healthcare that is often neglected. It’s a good example of working in partnership to focus on patient experience and the effectiveness of treatment in mainstream services.”

Published on 21st December 2012