Recovery approach shows promise in learning disabilities secure service

few outcome studies found, but personalisation is relatively recent in social work practice

Mental health problems amongst people with learning disabilities have been found to be more prevalent than amongst the general population, although estimates of prevalence rates vary. The authors of this paper were keen to consider whether the recovery approach to mental illness was applicable to people with learning disabilities and mental health needs.

The origin of the recovery approach to mental health needs is found in the work of organisations like Alcoholics Anonymous, and focuses on and provides support for a person’s potential for recovery, conceptualised as a personal journey rather than an outcome. There is little in the literature that explores the application of this approach to people with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

The researchers in this study were interested in how a patient centred recovery approach might be implemented in a secure learning disabilities service.

As no learning disability specific tools exist to measure recovery, the researchers adapted the Recovery Star, a tool that designed for use by people with mental health needs to help them think about where they are in terms of recovery and the progress they are making, originally formatted to help people look at ten areas of their life.

Support staff underwent training on the use of the tool and a multidisciplinary steering group made some changes based on feedback from the training experience.

Further training was carried out across all staff teams and the Recovery Star tool was embedded in the care programme approach process.

What they found was the recovery approach using the Recovery Star tool was beneficial for the service. They suggest on the basis of their findings that services will also require a whole systems approach to implementing recovery.

They also found that key workers had positive views about the use of the Recovery Star tool, believing it allowed for the discussion of topics that may not have been raised in other planning processes, or if raised, not explored as fully.

Whilst this is a relatively small study and is covering an area not previously given attention in the learning disabilities literature, the authors conclude their findings suggest the

Recovery Star tool, embedded in a care programme approach process, equips patients and staff for measuring the recovery journey.

Implementing a patient centred recovery approach in a secure learning disabilities service, Esan F et al., in Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 3 1, 24 – 35

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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