New model of support to help people with autism in Devon

A new model of support is being implemented across Devon to ensure people with autism have timely access to health and care help to meet their needs.

Devon County Council (DCC) and the Devon Partnership Trust have developed a ‘blue light’ protocol.

It brings together a group of health and social care professionals to proactively support people in the community, where possible, to avoid a hospital admission.

Questions were asked as to how many people in Devon were affected by a report recently released into the care of a teenager with autism who was ‘locked in a mental health unit in solitary confinement’.

The case of ‘Beth’ caused a public outcry. The 18-year-old has been locked up in isolation for 24 hours a day without any human contact. Her meals are served to her by sliding a tray across the floor to where she has to remain seated.

The report commissioned by Health Secretary Matt Hancock highlighted a number of failings into her care and made a ‘comprehensive list of improvements required to support children like Beth’.

The review says this practice must end.

The Government and NHS England recently launched their Transforming Care program to improve health and care services so that people with autism and/or a learning disability can live, with the right support, in the community and close to home.

At the December meeting of DCC, Councillor Rob Hannaford asked how many residents in its area are affected by the issues raised in the report.

He wanted to know what the council was doing to access and implement the new training and advocacy regime and how these improved measures would be achieved in Devon.

Cllr Hannaford said that the new training is backed by £1.4 million of government funding and will focus on understanding learning disabilities and autism.

In response, Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, cabinet member for adult social care and health services, said that, at a national level, progress has not been good enough and the Health and Social Care Secretary, Mr Hancock, had ordered the Care Quality Commission to conduct an in-depth review.

He added: “As part of the review, the Government will commit to providing each patient with a date for discharge, or where this is not appropriate, a clear explanation of why and a plan to move them closer towards being ready for discharge into the community.

“Devon has been very successful in this area and is recognised by NHSE as delivering best practice for adults.

“The performance of Devon for Community Treatment Reviews is good: 90 per cent for adults with CCG support (10 per cent have not given consent) and 100 per cent for adults who are NHSE supported.

“The council and the health service work together in a number of ways to ensure the appropriate care of children with learning disabilities and autism.

“This includes support for families when children are at home, the offer of community based and residential short breaks and longer-term care where appropriate.

“Locally agencies have recognised the need to expand and develop services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism and are investing to improve the availability of support.

“One of the key outcomes for this investment is to reduce the number of people going into specialist out of area hospital placements.

“Devon, in conjunction with Devon Partnership Trust, has developed a ‘blue light’ protocol which brings together a group of health and social care professionals to proactively support people in the community where possible, and avoid a hospital admission.

“Across the Devon STP, a new model of support is being implemented to ensure that people with autism have timely access to health and care support to meet their needs.

“The aim of this work is to prevent and/or reduce the escalation of people’s needs and the number of hospital admissions.

“This work also includes increasing awareness of autism amongst non-specialist staff across agencies through training, learning materials and information available on the CCG and DCC website.

“In Devon, we have built autism awareness and associated training into our workforce development plan and this is currently being rolled out to all frontline staff.

“We are also jointly developing a positive behaviour support network to improve the quality of health and care support received by people with learning disabilities and/or autism. We are monitoring the impact of this.”

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