Focusing on improving learning disability and autism services and support across the system

Date added: 16 June 2021
Last updated: 16 June 2021

Across Kent and Medway there has been a need for many years to transform the services and care for autistic people and those with learning disabilities.

In January 2020 the Trust made the decision to focus on how it could improve its own services and the support it offers to people with a learning disability and autistic people, and recruited a lead person to oversee the work. George Matuska, lead for learning disability and autism, is now in his second year with KMPT and is excited about the work now taking shape.

George said: “Since my appointment I have been involved in a whole host of conversations across the length and breadth of Kent and Medway health and care services, but most importantly with people who have either accessed support previously or who are still accessing support, as well as those who may need additional help from us in the future.

“What has really struck me is the broad spectrum of people’s experience of the care system currently based on their care. It really has been a very mixed picture, with some people finding the level of support they have received being just what they needed when they needed it, through to talk of large gaps in services, resulting in people having to fight for support that many of us just take for granted.”

“KMPT’s vision is to provide ‘brilliant care through brilliant people.’ That, combined with the integrated care system’s vision ‘to help local people live their best life,’ has given us clear scope for the Trust to do even more and support itself and the system so we can work in union to address the health inequalities that some people face.”

The Trust has been working hard to set up an internal board called the Transforming Neurodiversity Support (TNS) Programme Board which aims to empower people with a learning disability and autistic people to become leaders and help guide and shape the direction of services. What makes this so different from previous ways of working is that the majority of its members are autistic people, people with a learning disability and ADHD, it has a chair with lived experience and is empowered to guide and hold the trust to account at all steps along the journey of transformation.

George continues: “We also are supporting KMPT to take a critical look at the services it is currently offering to autistic people and people with a learning disability, and to make sure we are continuing to be as effective as possible. KMPT is only one small part of a much larger system and to offer the best outcomes for people, the whole system needs to work together.

“One way this has already started is by the Kent and Medway integrated care system (ICS) prioritising the needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people. They have listened to the current challenges faced by people and their families and are looking to find ways to improve this. As a starting point they have agreed that alongside supporting people’s current needs, the whole system needs to agree on medium and long-term plans together. They have also agreed to the development of Kent and Medway’s very first all-age autism and learning disability system strategy, which will mark the start of things to come which is a real step forward.”

As we look to a brighter future, George is very clear that our central focus and main aspiration in anything we do is for people to be able to live their best life, whoever they are.
“We have identified an overarching need, set out our non-negotiables, and are already working on how we implement this vision within the Trust and with wider system to support the changes people have told us are needed. I am looking forward to the challenge and seeing what we can really achieve.”

Key updates from the Transforming Neurodiversty Support Programme Board (TNS):
• Annual health checks for people with a learning disability. The TNS Board is working in partnership with the community mental health services to make sure all people with a learning disability they support know about the health check and how they can get support to access should they want to

• Green light toolkit is an audit and improvement tool for mental health services to help make sure they are offering effective support for autistic people and people with learning disabilities. The TNS Board is working in partnership with the early intervention psychosis team to trial how the audit tool can be embedded into the Trust's way of working so they can share what works well, work in partnership to make improvements and stop silo working.

• Transformation of the way specialist services work and support people and services. This month the Trust launched a co-produced transformation project that aims to redesign, rebrand and better describe all our specialist community and inpatients services to all who need help and support across the Trust and system.