National Inclusion Week 2020 ran from 28th September – 4th October and gave staff and patients at The Avalon Centre, a 20 bed Neurobehavioural Rehabilitation service in Swindon, an opportunity to share ideas and reflect on how they approach inclusion at a local level.
It’s inspiring when patients want to be actively involved in both their care and the everyday decisions around the business of running a hospital. After all, inclusion is defined as ‘the state of being included or being made a part of something’ and the recent recruitment drive for a new Consultant Neuropsychiatrist at The Avalon Centre helped to make sense of the way inclusion works in practice. Patients were supported to fully engage in the process and between them came up with four absorbing and innovative questions with one patient choosing to sit on the interview panel. It was really important that they were there in person to put the following questions to the candidate.
- As a psychiatrist how can you help the patients with their physical health issues?
- How would you determine and action when a patient is ready for home leave and other permissions?
- Do you consider yourself approachable as a doctor and can patients confide in you about personal matters?
- If you were a patient in a brain injury hospital, how would you expect to be treated?
They felt that hearing and seeing an interviewee’s response was key to making the experience meaningful for themselves and the person seeking the new position. This approach where patients sit on panels, ask questions and are included in the decision to appoint and offer the role, brings to life the reality of inclusive practice.
To further celebrate and embrace the week, staff and patients at the service made cards and pledges with their personal thoughts on what inclusion means to them and how they intend to practice it. Central themes to the week were around belonging, respect, equality and having the chance to join in the activities that The Avalon Centre offers and to be part of the group that chooses them. At this uncertain time, a sense of belonging – whatever that looks like – has never been more important. Inclusion in a community, however small, boosts morale and enhances wellbeing for everyone.
Staff and patients pledged to learn from each other and embrace their differences. One way they approach this is through one of the most popular activities in the weekly timetable, the Wednesday baking session with the catering manager and the rehabilitation assistants. From pizzas and sponge puddings to the newly formed Saturday curry club night, everyone is included, even if they only join to eat the fantastic food that is produced. The culture of sharing food is a pleasurable experience and one which really brings people together and the many choices and options offered help all to feel they really do belong, making it a fully inclusive activity.
Making sense of inclusion comes in many shapes and sizes and perhaps that is just the point, from the person who feels free to sit on the edge of a group to watch, listen and learn, to the person who chooses to be at the centre, leading and lighting the way. They are both equal, included and belong.