Special needs trainers help staff understand disability needs at Northwick Park and St Marks hospitals

John Keaveny

John Keaveny - Credit: Archant

A man with Down’s syndrome is helping train staff at St Mark’s and Northwick Park hospitals so they can better understand the needs of disabled patients.

John Keaveny, is a Treat Me Right! trainer working in the Watford Road hospitals in a project supported by the National Autistic Society and provided by Certitude.

The trainers provide staff with an insight into the lives of people with a learning disability or autism. They are able to highlight the inequalities some people face when using health and social care services and explain how to be more flexible and provide care that is focused on the needs of each person who enters their service.

Mr Keaveny said: “I have had Down’s syndrome all my life and I haven’t always been treated well. One time a nurse tried to take blood from me and didn’t explain what she was doing. I told her to explain it to me with pictures which really helped me understand what was happening.

“I use this example when I am training staff in hospitals. I love telling people my story and experience of healthcare. I would like to get more people involved.”

He added: “I love it when people tell me I’m a good trainer and that I have changed the way they think and the way they work. It means so much to me.”

Staff are provided with some simple “dos and don’ts” to prevent people from being perceived as challenging, when in fact their needs are not being understood and catered for.

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Tim Nicholls, policy manager at the National Autistic Society, said: “This is welcome news that has the potential to make a real difference to local autistic people and their families.

“Many autistic people find it hard to access appropriate health and social care support, and struggle with poor mental and physical health as a result. The first step to addressing this is making sure staff understand autism and know what reasonable adjustments can help autistic people.

“It’s often the smallest changes that make the biggest difference, like speaking more clearly, ensuring the person knows what to expect or taking extra care to make sure the appointment starts right on time.

“We hope other areas in England will take note of this and introduce similar schemes, so they can start meeting their legal duties on autism.”