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The Benefits of Delivering Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) via Teletherapy to Secure Patients with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) at Thornford Park Hospital
COVID-19 has forced a need to think innovatively to continue providing vital services to the patients at Thornford Park Hospital. The stress that we all have experienced through social distancing, wearing of PPE, and general uncertainty, have arguably taken a greater toll on individuals with...

COVID-19 has forced a need to think innovatively to continue providing vital services to the patients at Thornford Park Hospital. The stress that we all have experienced through social distancing, wearing of PPE, and general uncertainty, have arguably taken a greater toll on individuals with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). Whilst the task of continuing to deliver therapy has never been more complex, the need has also never been greater. Whilst socially distanced therapy remains to be effective, the need to use face coverings and alter the physical structure of sessions, can unsettle individuals with ASC who thrive in stable environments with predictable routine. To overcome some of these complexities, Thornford Park began trialling the use of remote working technology, to deliver Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) to several patients. This short article will provide an overview of how SLT benefits patients with ASC, before highlighting the benefits and restrictions of remote therapy.

SLT is an essential treatment for the continued development of individuals with ASC. It is a practice that can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs, broadly focusing on three areas: social communication skills, relationship skills, and assessment of communication and language skills. The ability to develop individuals in these three areas provides an effective and sustainable way to aid rehabilitation. Improvement of non-verbal skills, conversation, and assertiveness, provides individuals with the tools to significantly improve their personal relationships and general social interactions.

Teletherapy provides the ability to safely continue delivering therapy, whilst limiting the negative effect of face coverings, and restrictions necessary to support social distancing in face-to-face sessions. Using a computer, with staff supervision, patients at Thornford Park have undertaken six weeks of teletherapy using Microsoft Teams. Using a webcam and microphone, this platform has proven highly effective, enabling the use of interactive tools such as animated presentations, videos and quizzes. Feedback from patients has been extremely positive, highlighted by the questionnaire feedback below:

Feedback suggests using technology as an interface can be equally as effective as face-to-face therapy for some individuals. Whilst limited in its ability to develop face-to-face confidence, online sessions may actually encourage improved interaction with some ASC patients, who struggle with social skills. Using technology as a filter can enable a graduated approach to patient rehabilitation, enabling patients to develop an understanding of SLT techniques, without the pressure of face-to-face conversation. Furthermore, teletherapy can act as a short escape, reducing stress. Going forward, a blended form of therapy including both remote and face-to-face therapy may benefit not only the patient experience, but Thornford Park’s ability to adapt to any future crisis.

Whilst teletherapy initially seemed to be a contingency tool to continue therapy, the positive effects have suggested it has value as a permanent practice. In addition to its clinical benefits, teletherapy also promotes flexible working for employees, reduces travel costs, and enables a more efficient use of office space. Although early in its implementation, teletherapy has the potential to expand beyond SLT therapy, into other departments.

Staff and service users at Sturt House have made significant efforts to maintain their physical health during the pandemic. Recognising the effect that exercise has on mental health, staff have encouraged service users to participate in the Mission Fit programme, to maintain both physical and mental health levels during this challenging time.

Mission Fit is Elysium’s unique fitness and wellbeing programme that encourages healthy habits and rewards activity and fitness levels. Mission Fit Lead, Andile Dabengwa was tasked with identifying new equipment to engage service users with the programme and as a result Sturt House has equipment to rival the best of gyms! New equipment includes press up bars, agility ladders, slam balls, dumbbells and a 15-metre battle rope! With the increase in gym equipment the circuits are become a lot more diverse and are able to target more muscle groups. New circuits include the invisible chair, jumping jacks, bicep curls and shadow boxing.

The new equipment has proved to be very popular with service users at Sturt House, resulting in increased motivation and the following positive outcomes;

• Weight loss (service users and staff)
• Increased muscle mass
• Improved mental state
• Reduction in incidents

Look out for the interview with our Mission Fit lead, Andile Dabengwa to hear more about the programme and some of our service users who are currently participating.

To find out more about our Mission Fit programme or to make a referral, please contact Paul Thomson on 07342 037 352 or paul.thomson3@nhs.net

Traditionally and in usual times residents at Stanley House and Bowley Court have seen the New Year in with fireworks and a party, but this year they did it differently.  At such a poignant time everyone chose to remember residents, friends and staff that have sadly passed away over recent months and previous years and to celebrate the wonderful and fulfilling work that takes place on every single day of the year.

Residents and staff lit up the grounds of Stanley House and Bowley Court turning it into a winter wonderland by adorning the water feature with seven sets of fairy lights which transformed it into an ethereal light tree. Around this, staff and residents placed beautiful hand decorated stones amongst those that already lay there, some of which were painted by people who are no longer with us. They shared stories, laughed and shed a few tears too, as so many staff always say ‘Stanley House and Bowley Court has a sense of family and the bonds that are formed here are strong, we are proud of the work we do and want to celebrate each and every person who comes this way.’

The water feature is now very much a place where staff and residents alike can find space and time to reflect and remember, not just at the New Year but on any day at any time, whatever the season. Staff now hope to encourage every resident to add their own unique stone to the beautiful and sensitive tribute, helping us all to remember their stories.

Thornford Park have been working with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust for the last eight years voluntarily to protect and enhance the waterway. To reintroduce service users to community based rehabilitation, the hospital have taken part in the trust’s lock adoption scheme for a number of years.

On every last Friday of the month the hospital facilitates voluntary sessional work at the lock for service users. They work together with staff to help restore the riverbank, manage the surrounding areas; keeping the grass and scrubs from encroaching on the open walkways and making the area safe for the general public to visit. The service users also maintain the locks including painting and reporting any concerns to the river trust.

The adoption of the lock has proved beneficial in a number of ways for service users, helping them to connect with their community and make it a better place. Service users support each other and work together, they are physically active and have developed new transferrable skills to boost their confidence and ultimately have enhanced their mental wellbeing.

Being part of this scheme has enabled Thornford Park Hospital to provide a safe environment to integrate service users back into the community.

This is just one of the community-based initiatives that is offered to service users at Thornford Park Hospital by the occupational therapy team. They play a vital role within the hospital enabling service user independence in occupational performance areas such as physical, sensory and cognitive, working with individual service users to aid recovery and enhance their quality of life.

Activities are designed to help service users learn and explore new skills but also maintain existing skills according to their needs and aspirations.

Elysium Healthcare are following guidance from the government in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus, (COVID-19).

 

Families and Carers

At Elysium Healthcare we understand the difficulties the new national lockdown is bringing to everyone. During this time, we will continue to manage the safety of those we support and staff within our services in line with the latest NHSE and government guidance.

The Registered Managers at each service are working hard to ensure we are able to communicate changes and guidelines as soon as they come into place. This includes any localised or changed rules around visiting.

During this period there may be times when we cannot respond as quickly as you would like us to. This is because we are prioritising the support of our staff to make sure the people we care for are kept safe.

Each of our services are working with the latest guidance on hygiene and infection control. We have provided information to the people we support and are communicating regularly with our staff teams via our dedicated Coronavirus update email address and our employee app.

Thank you for your support during these unprecedented times in prioritising the safety of your loved one, families and staff who support them.

You can read in more detail the Elysium Visitor and Visit Guidance here.

Families, carers and friends who have questions or concerns can speak with the Service Manager directly or email them at: FamilyandCarerEnquiries@elysiumhealthcare.co.uk

 

Commissioners and Case Managers

We have been working in partnership with all national health bodies to prepare ourselves so that the people we support and the staff who deliver care are kept safe. We have continuity plans in place for the organisation and each of our services. Our response team is led by our Chief Executive Officer, Executive Medical Director and our Group Director of Quality.

As one of our external stakeholders we have set up dedicated email addresses in order to answer your questions at this time:

CommissionerEnquiries@elysiumhealthcare.co.uk

CaseManagerEnquiries@elysiumhealthcare.co.uk

 

For all external enquiries to sites please contact the relevant Service Manager at the individual Elysium service.

Further information on current restrictions in place can be found at the following links:

 

The Government have published the latest information on COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

Mencap have produced their latest guidance here in Easy Read:

https://www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-latest-guidance-government

 

There is a two-minute daily update in British Sign Language about COVID 19 here:

https://signhealth.org.uk/resources/coronavirus/

Third Wave CBT

Group therapy for emotional regulation is now available at Withdean House, Elysium Therapy Brighton

The service will provide patients with the opportunity to learn skills to help them manage emotional intensity, problem behaviours and relationships.

This is an evidenced based treatment for people with emotional and relationship difficulties. Focused on delivering elements of DBT, CBT and MBCT, Elysium Therapy Brighton will deliver and facilitate therapy that has been shown to be effective and that can make a real difference with patients that struggle to regulate emotions and cope in relationships.

Over 20 weeks, one day/week the service will deliver the following core modules:

Mindfulness Skills

You will learn how to practise mindfulness so you can observe and describe your thoughts and feelings without reacting, you will learn to identify different states of mind, emotional, logical and wise mind. You will learn skills to help you balance inner conflictual thoughts and emotions. You will learn how the mind can be released from self-limiting beliefs and maintaining cycles.

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

You will learn how to identify what it is you want from relationships, how to maintain and keep the relationship that are important to you and how to have a healthy relationship with yourself. We will teach you how to say No to what you do not want in relationships and how to say Yes to what you do want in relationships. The module will help you have effective relationships that are stable and life affirming.

Emotion Regulation Skills

Problem behaviours, self-destructive and self-harming are often associated with patient’s difficulty in developing, using and understanding the internal skills needed to regulate mood and emotions. This can often be as a result of experiencing lack of validation from significant others and the environment in formative years,  which can create difficulties in  relating to others.

Distress Tolerance Skills

We teach patients how to manage crisis urges, situations and intense emotions by learning and deploying specific skills that when used can reduce the urges that then help us reduce the risk of acting on impulsive emotions and making situations worse than they need to be. These skills are very effective at reducing the frequency of problem behaviours.

How are the Skills Taught?

The skills are taught in three one hour groups facilitated over one day for a period of twenty weeks. The maximum patents numbers are eight to a group. The group is led by two therapists who will teach patients the skills to help them regulate emotions, improve relationships and reduce suffering.

The therapist will explain the material primarily in a psycho-educational format that moves at a pace that is inclusive while recognising individual patient needs. There will be some experiential exercises as well as breakout groups and working in pairs.

We do not discuss the past in the sessions or ask the why or how questions. The group is for learning new skills to help patients challenge unhelpful coping strategies, manage their feelings and behaviour and develop improved ways of relating and understanding.

We will use structured exercise, educational material, handouts and brainstorm with board work. The therapists are all highly qualified with many years of experience in developing skills and techniques for helping patients.

Who will find the group helpful?

This group work will be most helpful for people struggling to manage their emotions and mood and who experience difficulties in controlling and expressing emotions appropriately.

This group therapy is for people who often have behaviours that are self-destructive and reduce their quality of life, they may often engage in problem behaviours and have a problematic relationships with food and mood altering drugs. Relationships will often be very intense or avoided, there is often a history of childhood trauma.

How do I access Treatment?

Patients can self-refer or be referred by their GP, we offer a free assessment session to help you find out if the service is appropriate for your needs.

If you are interested in finding out more about programme and please call 01273 059700.

Elysium Healthcare are delighted to announce that Hannah Doyle at The Woodhouse has won a Healthcare Hero Award from Knight Frank.

 

The Healthcare Hero Awards were launched by global property adviser Knight Frank to recognise outstanding people within the social care sector. Submissions for nominees focused on individuals that during the COVID-19 pandemic showed outstanding leadership, empathy and compassion, while continuing to lead in efforts with infection control and commitment to creative thinking when it came to ensuring social care residents and service users felt safe and secure during these uncertain times.

Congratulations to Hannah on this fantastic achievement.

Serea Elysium PALSHi! My name is Serea and I am the Regional Patient Advice Liaison Support Officer for Elysium’s CAMHS services. I have been working with Elysium Healthcare for 3 years previously within the role of Therapy Coordinator as a part of the Occupational Therapy team at Potters Bar Clinic. This role has helped me develop the skills and knowledge to work well with young people, advocate for their needs and support service development of CAMHS sites.

Elysium’s Patient Advice and Liaison Support service work to support and advise young people, parents and carers regarding questions, queries and discuss ward matters to support their needs.

We can help by:

  • Helping to resolve problems informally raised on young people’s behalf
  • Listening to any issues, queries or concerns raised
  • Using feedback & suggestions to improve our service

 

Learn more about Elysium’s CAMHS services here.

Life during 2020 has been almost unrecognisable as we know it, a second lockdown has made it so much harder for everyone including staff, NHS or key workers, families and carers and for service users already facing the challenge of being in a hospital setting.

Staff at The Copse all put in huge efforts to ensure that service users remained on their rehabilitation and recovery pathway, even at this uncertain time.  The Occupational Therapy team along with the Psychology department have worked tirelessly to ensure that ward activities and therapies are varied so that spirits are lifted and service users motivated to engage, ensuring that plans for the future don’t have to be put on hold.

The new Art and Creative Activity Group has proved a great platform for people to express themselves with service users choosing both the brief and the medium. Little brings to mind a sense of hope and joy more than the image of Sunflowers, chosen as the focus for a recent art workshop.  After all, the most visited painting in the National Gallery is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, painted at a time when this young artist who himself suffered with profound mental health problems, had a rare moment of hope and happiness as he anticipated the arrival of his artist friend and idol, Paul Gaugin.

We all need something to look forward to and service users at The Copse have asked that the Art Group remains a weekly session as the benefits of engaging in the process of producing a piece of art work can be seen almost instantly.  Service users said they felt more relaxed and less anxious as they concentrated on their individual paintings during the session and hopefully after restrictions are lifted, friends, families and carers will be able to visit once more and share in everyone’s sense of pride in the achievement of producing these lovely pieces of work.

 

Congratulations and thank you to Jessica Taylor, Group Home Manager at Elysium Care Partnerships for being the first member of Elysium staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Jessica had expressed her interest in being included in the first round of vaccines and within 48 hours had her appointment confirmed.

In her own words Jessica tells us about her experience:

“I arrive at St Georges Hospital and sat in the waiting room to complete my paperwork and book the follow up appointment. I was sat down in one of the cubicles and joined by the Lead Consultant for Infectious Diseases. She asked me how I felt about having the vaccine, confidently told me about the research and testing that has gone into its development. She discussed the side effects and talked me through how the vaccine works. Even though she was wearing a mask it was easy to see the relief in her eyes that the light at the end of the tunnel is now that bit closer.

The atmosphere in the room was unlike anything else, you could feel the positivity and the excitement that this was finally happening. Being in this environment really made me think about how hard our NHS has been working for us over the last few months, and taking the vaccine is not only going to protect me and everyone I care for, but will also give these amazing doctors and nurses the break that they deserve.

The decision to take the vaccine was not something I took lightly; I had my doubts and questions like everyone else. The information provided, supported me to make an informed decision for myself.

Although I know that it’s quite likely I’d be fine if I contracted COVID-19, I never want to be responsible for passing this deadly virus onto someone else who can’t fight it. I know that having the vaccine is the right thing for me and everyone else in my life, and I’m proud to say that I’ve done everything I can to protect those I care for.”

The latest government advice about the coronavirus vaccine can be found here

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