Woman who spent more than five years in hospital leads the way in making change for those with learning disabilities

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:20 15 March 2018

Opening Doors' Moving Forward conference. Speakers and organisers from Opening Doors.

Opening Doors' Moving Forward conference. Speakers and organisers from Opening Doors. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

A woman with learning disabilities who was kept in hospital for more than five years has taken the lead in making changes for others like her.

Opening Doors' Moving Forward conference. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYOpening Doors' Moving Forward conference. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Hayley Burwood, 41, is chairman of Opening Doors - a user-led charity based in Norwich which advocates for those with learning disabilities.

And yesterday the organisation, along with various health authorities, held a first-of-its-kind event aimed at keeping people out of hospital and moving them into their own homes.

Mother-of-one Ms Burwood said: “I was sectioned at Hellesdon Hospital for my own safety and I was there for over five years. They kept me there a long time because they didn’t know what to do with me, nobody really wanted me, I was in nursing homes and care homes before that.

“It made me feel quite low and I had a lot of behavioural problems.“

Life for Ms Burwood has since changed dramatically and now, with the help of support workers, she lives in the community and heads up Opening Doors.

But for others finding that support and getting out of hospital was still difficult - a problem Norfolk and Waveney’s Transforming Care Partnership is trying to solve.

When the scheme started in April 2016, there were 27 people in hospital under the control of local health authorities.

But by this month, there were just 16 people in locally commissioned beds - with a goal lower this further.

Opening Doors' Moving Forward conference. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYOpening Doors' Moving Forward conference. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Francis Chennell, 42, from Norwich, had been in a medium-secure hospital. .

He struggled to adjust when he first moved back into the community. He said: “The first few days I just stayed in my room and I was still waiting for someone to come and open my door.”

He felt more could be done to help with the transition out of secure units.

Ricky Nicholson, 30, also from Norwich, had been in a number of secure units but had now moved to supported living.

He said: “I felt hopeless, I did not know when I was going to get out and I had lots of problems with them trying to get the right medication.”

And he felt passionate about making sure people like him were included in plans to change processes.

He said: “It’s important people get their voice heard.”

A number of measures have already been put in place by Norfolk and Waveney’s Transforming Care Partnership to make improvements.

Alison Leather, deputy senior responsible officer for the partnership, said: “Since the start of the programme, we have put in place a new community based services for people with learning disabilities, and strengthened the crisis support available to people and their families.

“We have also put in place the new clinical treatment review process to make sure a multi-disciplinary team works with people to take the best decisions about their care and support, and have created a way to identify people who may be at risk of admission to hospital so we can support to stay in their own homes.”

Over the next year the partnership will work with providers of accommodation, make sure paid carers have the right skills and resources, and put focus on children and young poeple, amongst other initiatives.

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