Recently, a new service has been launched at Happy Futures aimed at looking after the physical health and wellbeing of all individuals and employees, as it is so important to support and empower people to care for themselves by looking after their physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing.
The new service is both for the individuals we support and for the staff who work hard to support them. Based on this, there are 2 sides to the service:
- The individuals we support will have access to mini health checks in their own homes and receive guidance and support on healthy living. Individuals may also be referred to the Happy Futures Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead for a health review if there are concerns about their wellbeing.
- The staff will also be offered mini health checks and health advice through direct referrals or through the Happy Futures Human Resources department. This will be a confidential service to support and help staff to look after their own wellbeing.
For individuals with learning disabilities, autism and/or mental health concerns, there has long been a concern that their physical health and wellbeing have not prioritised, and yet they often have poor health and multiple complex health conditions to manage. Since 2009, additional funding has been available for individuals with learning disabilities to undertake an annual health check with their local GP Practice to help identify and monitor any physical conditions and the impact these may have on their mental wellbeing. Sadly, the uptake on these health checks has been poor, as they normally take place in the GP Practice and this can heighten anxiety and stress for many individuals.
The New Service
The new service being rolled out at Happy Futures will take some of the stress away by undertaking some of these checks in the individuals’ homes by staff the individuals are familiar and comfortable with. This will help reduce the anxiety and allow the experience to be more positive. The service will be run to compliment the services already offered by the GP Practices and will work in close conjunction and collaboration with other healthcare professionals involved, such as the Learning Disability Services team.
The health checks will be planned to meet the individual’s routine and consider their needs and wishes. Should there be a specific issue identified, such as the individual’s weight, a monitoring schedule will be put in place and regular visits planned to review this, and the support team will be offered guidance and support to assist the individual in managing the concern. It may be that the individual needs a visit to the doctors and as part of the service, and this will be planned and prepared for to reduce the anxiety this visit may cause. There may need to be a process of desensitisation undertaken before the health assessment, and this will be planned and implemented carefully with a team approach to reduce anxiety and increase the effectiveness of the preparation.
Mini Health Checks
A mini health check will look at several areas of the individual’s wellbeing, such as diet, mobility, skincare, dentalcare, bowel habits and other aspects of general health. The individual will be supported to have their height and weight checked and recorded, followed by checks such as temperature, blood pressure and pulse. These checks will be done in the privacy of their own home and at a pace that the individual is comfortable with. It may be that more than one visit is needed and this is fine, as the service will be tailored and bespoke to the needs of the individual. If an issue is identified which is of concern, the individual’s GP practice may be consulted for further advice and guidance.
There will also be a referral service for individuals which Support Workers and PBS Active Responders can access, allowing them to refer an individual to the service if they have identified a specific concern or if the individual has become less well. This may be minor, such as a cut that is not healing or constipation. The referral will be reviewed, and a visit arranged in conjunction with the appropriate PBS Active Responder. The individual will be visited, and a review of their general health completed, including a chat with the individual about how they are feeling, and a plan of enhanced care formulated and communicated with staff, based on the agreement of the individual concerned. Their medication will also be reviewed and, if necessary, the doctor will be consulted if changes are needed.
As part of her role, the Happy Futures Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead will be working closely with other members of the LDS team, both at Eastfield clinic and in the hospital setting. This will include the smooth transition of going into hospital and discharge and where possible, additional care and support will be provided to help prevent emergency admissions to hospital. The Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead will be supporting the individuals before and during the flu season and facilitate the flue vaccination programme, ensuring this experience is as positive as it can be and with minimal disruption to the individual.
Dental Health and Hygiene
As part of the service, mouth and dental care and hygiene will be monitored and a monthly review completed and uploaded to Nourish. Dentalcare is hugely important to reduce the risk of gum disease, tooth decay and other oral conditions which can lead to eating and drinking difficulties, infections and may lead individuals to generally feel unwell. Many individuals struggle with a daily routine of dentalcare, and the new service will look at all aspects of dental health and where needed, work with local dentists and dental clinics when appointments are needed or when a referral is required, ensuring preparation visits and plans to help reduce the anxiety are in place.
As part of the service, the Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead will be visiting each of the individuals on a regularly basis to support them and their staff with their medication and discuss any concerns. This will include an audit of medication and action planning if any concerns are identified.
The other part to the service which is to be rolled out is for staff health and their wellbeing. As social care Support Workers, much of their time is spent supporting and caring for others, which often means they forget to eat healthily, hydrate, rest and relax. These are all elements that collectively support a physically health wellbeing, and therefore the decision was made to expand this service to staff members, who will be eligible for a mini health checks with a healthcare professional in a relaxing and confidential environment. Staff can self-refer themselves for a check-up using the online referral form and will then be contacted by the Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead and an appointment will be arranged.
At the appointment there will be a general physical check-up, such as measuring the height and weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and oxygen levels of the staff member, followed by a discussion about the staff members general health. This will then be put together and an action plan formulated with the staff member, which may include advice and guidance on subjects such as smoking cessation, health eating or weight loss. Staff my also be referred to external professionals, such as the GP. Coaching will also be available for staff to help deal with specific issues or general concerns.
During the appointment, the staff member may be asked to review their health questionnaire and discuss any aspects of concerns they have documented and would like further support or guidance with. After the initial visit there will always be a follow-up visit to see how things are going and if there is any further support or help which can be given. There is always strict confidentiality for the staff member and information will only be shared with the permission of the staff member.
My name is Emma Donnan and I am the Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead at Happy Futures. After completing my Diploma of Higher Education in Adult Nursing from Leeds University, I joined the Health and Social Care sector as a staff nurse in 1996 and has since held various nursing positions, including that of Ward Manager and Lead Healthcare Facilitator since. In recent years, I have discovered my passion for social care along with nursing, and took on the sector as a Health and Social Care Training Manager in 2018 and then as a Services Manager in 2019, managing a service for individuals with complex conditions and learning disabilities. In April 2020 I joined the Happy Futures team as a Support Worker and since December 2020 I have been the Specialist Physical Health and Wellbeing Lead, responsible for ensuring all individuals’ and staff’s health and social care needs are met to improve health outcomes, functional status and quality of life.