Patients in Somerset with learning disabilities are getting much better care than before, according to the national regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC).

A national mental health and learning disabilities report published by the CQC on 15 March has praised the way Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust made huge improvements that saw its rating for learning disabilities services rise from ‘Inadequate’ to ‘Good’, with ‘Excellent’ for its leadership.

One of the most important areas of change has resulted in improvements in the communication between managers and staff responsible for caring first-hand for patients and service users. Staff reported that this greatly lifted their morale and meant they felt empowered to suggest changes to improve care.

Following the ‘Inadequate’ rating in September 2015, CQC inspectors visited Somerset to work closely with staff across the service, from management and clinicians, to reception staff and administrators.

Laura Lanning, a clinical psychologist at Somerset Partnership, said she felt that having a CQC inspector in the room while she carried out a mental health review was very helpful.

She said: “I had feedback that my supervision notes were accurate and thorough, which felt great and the service user was pleased that he had been selected to be observed as part of the inspection.”

Jane Yeandle, Somerset Partnership’s manager responsible for learning disabilities, said:

“Our staff were understandably disappointed with the September 2015 inspection of our community mental health services for learning disabilities and it was in effect a watershed moment for us and for patients and service users across Somerset.

“We made a number of improvements to the services, including a more structured team, closer monitoring of patients’ care plans and recording notes electronically rather than relying on a paper based system.

“We also set up a buddy system where staff skilled in particular areas could assist their colleagues and share their knowledge.

“We are very pleased that our changes have led to the CQC rating us as ‘Good’, but we want to go one better and are still working very hard to improve the service we give to patients.

“Three areas that we will focus on in the coming year will be the way we educate families on what level of service they should expect to get and how it can be accessed by people with learning disabilities. We are also looking at out-of-county referrals and making it easier to record feedback from service users and their families.”

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