A partnership of GPs across Mansfield, Pleasley, Warsop, Mansfield Woodhouse are operating a new, proactive service that finds people with learning disabilities to help improve their health and wellbeing. The work is funded from the combined resources of 12 general practices covering the Mansfield population.

Dr Milind Tadpatrikar, GP at Roundwood Surgery for 20 years and the Clinical Director for the Rosewood (central Mansfield) area has worked closely with Dr James Mills, GP & Senior Partner at Orchard Medical Practice, Dr Khalid Butt, GP & Senior Partner at Oakwood Surgery and both Clinical Directors for Mansfield North Primary Care Network to develop and launch the service. The lead for the new service is Sarah Atkinson, a Specialist Learning Disability Nurse Practitioner of 25 years, who was recruited as the area’s first Primary Care Network Learning Disabilities Nurse.

Dr Tadpatrikar explains: “GPs have been working hard to find and care for individuals that need urgent support. The impact of lockdowns, isolating and shielding has meant that health and wellbeing for this patient group has worsened.

“It doesn’t mean that staff in practices don’t care for this group. Many people with learning disabilities come and see us already. But the ones who don’t come, who can’t come, we want to know why. We need to know if they are missing out on services.

“We’re finding people in our communities and personalising the service. It’s about saying ‘Do you need us? We’re coming to you then.’ We’re bringing them into the main fold of the NHS care.”

Sarah toured the area during Learning Disabilities Week, talking with residents and GP practice staff across Mansfield about the care and support available from primary care services for people with learning disabilities.

Sarah will also work closely with staff in local surgeries and community services, training, advocating and highlighting the needs of people with a learning disability. Dr Tadpatrikar explains: “With specialist knowledge from Sarah, more staff will be able to pick up on things that will make a difference, and that’s vital.”

About Sarah

Sarah is employed by Primary Integrated Community Services (PICS), and says:

“I have always had a special interest and passion for meeting the physical health needs of people with a Learning Disability, who we know experience health inequalities due to barriers accessing services; and sadly many die earlier than the general population from treatable and preventable conditions.

“There are no other Learning Disability Nurses employed to work directly in Primary Care in the East Midlands, so this role is very exciting.

“This role is literally my dream job! Being able to use all my years of experience to forge relationships with those individuals who have not engaged with their surgery before; and being able to undertake observations and their health check for the first time ever, for some, is quite special.

“I have also relished working with different professionals within the surgeries, including GPs, Clinical Pharmacists and Palliative Care nurses. Seeing reasonable adjustments being made to ensure patients’ needs are met is fantastic.”

Patient feedback

A patient’s mother recently said about Sarah, “Sarah is a great help and has made a big difference to my daughter’s health, getting her the support she needs. Thank you”.

A manager of an assisted living home for people with learning disabilities said: “The empathy Sarah has shown has been heart-warming. It has been so lovely having you in our corner.”