Day case surgery team earn Purple Star for supporting people with learning disabilities

Following work started at the QEII hospital, Trust’s day case surgery team attained the Purple Star kite mark from Hertfordshire County Council’s Health and Community Services (HCS).


People with learning disabilities have very special needs – and none more so than when undergoing day surgery, which can be a very stressful and traumatic time for them and their carers if not handled with sensitivity and flexibility by NHS staff.

The Trust’s day case surgery team, which until October 2014 was based at the former QEII hospital’s Queens Wing prior to moving to its new home at the Lister, was selected by Hertfordshire County Council’s Community Learning Disability Service to take part in a programme of training and quality assurance that was designed to improve the quality of care and treatment experienced by this very vulnerable group of individuals.

The day case surgery team worked closely with Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s specialist dental service colleagues, who had attained a Purple Star already. The Trust, by also achieving this accolade, reflects the close working relationships that exist between hospital, community and learning disability services in this part of Hertfordshire.

Karen Stephens-Green, the nurse team manager for the Trust’s day care surgery unit at the Lister hospital in Stevenage, explains:

“When it comes to people with learning disabilities, you have to think differently – the normal processes and procedures we follow often won’t work in the same way. The Purple Star training provided by the Health Liaison Team helped our staff understand TEACH – which stands for time, environment, attitude, communication and help. These are all areas we now know need to be considered so that we can help make sure that anyone of our patients with a learning disability gets the best possible care for their particular needs.

“Most of our patients with a learning disability arrive with their own Purple Folder, which carries invaluable health information about them, their likes, how they want to be addressed, approached, what makes them happy and what makes them scared. The folder goes with them everywhere when in our care – even the little things can make a huge difference to ensure that they are prepared for their surgery long before they arrive in our team are better prepared to look after them, thus keeping their experience as stress-free as possible.

“Hearing that we had been awarded a Purple Star was great news and is real recognition for the work of the day surgery team over the last 10 years. We are now really keen to help our colleagues across the Trust understand what’s involved and why it is important that they too aim for a Purple Star too.”

Astrid Ubas, acute liaison nurse within the Health Liaison Team at Hertfordshire County Council, said:

“The day surgery team has been wonderful to work with – especially Karen Stephens-Green and the department’s learning disability champion, Rachel McLellan, who have been key in helping their colleagues embrace the Purple Star strategy. They have supported a range of reasonable adjustments being made, working in the most innovative, collaborative TEACH style – from developing easy-read information through to supporting collaboratively individuals with highly complex behaviours.

“The Health Liaison Team is keen to work with other clinical areas within the Trust, as well as other NHS organisations, to support their accreditation in achieving the Purple Star kite mark.  The future’s bright – the future’s purple!”