Lynzee Mcshea is no stranger to NHS Innovations North having been nominated as a finalist in the ‘Service Improvement’ category at the Bright Ideas in Health Awards in 2014.
Through the course of her work as an Audiologist, Lynzee knew that people with learning disabilities are more likely to have a hearing impairment than the general population, but are less likely to have this diagnosed and managed and that it was estimated that at least 40% of people with learning disabilities had a hearing problem that could benefit from treatment. This meant that in Sunderland alone, there were thousands of individuals with hearing needs but the number of referrals received by the Audiology team for people with learning disabilities was negligible…So Lynzee decided to find out why.
A model of change was created termed "the 3As". The 3A’s are relevant to any health discipline, not just Audiology but each “A” must be fully functioning to promote sustainable changes to practice:
Access - Individuals with a learning disability and their advocates must have an awareness of the prevalence of hearing loss, must be able to identify hearing loss and be able to access appropriate referral to specialist services, via a GP;
Assessment - Once known to specialist services (e.g. Audiology), attendance should be supported and accurate, and successful diagnostic testing should be achievable;
Aftercare - Following diagnosis of hearing loss, management and rehabilitation should be appropriate and adhered to. This may include use of hearing aids, assistive listening devices and adherence to any follow up appointments.
In applying the 3A’s to the Audiology pathway, it emerged that advocates and supporters of people with learning disabilities have a key role in identifying hearing problems, seeking referral and complying with aftercare. However, research suggested that the role had not been fully optimised and therefore she developed an educational training package, to date this training has been used successfully to raise awareness for more than 60 staff, and has the potential for national roll out.
In addition, City Hospitals Sunderland now run a specialist Audiology Clinic for adults with complex needs (including individuals with dementia, as well as other learning disabilities). The new approach is well received by colleagues at national meetings and publications (McShea et al, 2014).
Lynzee worked with the NHS Innovations North Team to copyright and therefore protect the training materials. The New Year will see a meeting between Lynzee, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust Research & Development Team and NHS Innovations North investigate its dissemination further and if it can be rolled out on a larger scale.
As well as being a finalist in the Service Improvements category of the Bright Ideas in Health Awards in 2014, the programme was awarded first place in the Partnership category at the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trusts Recognition Awards. The Audiology Team were also awarded Team of the Year by the British Academy.
McShea L, Corkish C, McAnelly S (2014) Audiology services: Access, assessment and aftercare. Learning Disability Practice 17(2): 20 - 25.
Contacts: Sarah Black at RTC North
Notes to editor: RTC North is an independent innovation agency committed to helping business and society manage change. Excelling in the areas of technology transfer, business growth and innovation management, RTC North has worked with thousands of organisations since 1989 to create jobs, wealth and a better quality of life for the people of Northern England. Today the company employs over 60 people and has offices in Sunderland, Liverpool and Leeds.