Posted on 18th May, 2009
Julie Wilkins, Learning Disability Liaison Nurse, has won the Leadership for Improvement award at the 2009 South West Health and Social Care Awards. Presented by John Sergeant, political correspondent and Strictly Come Dancing favourite, Julie’s award is for her work to raise awareness within GP surgeries of the inequalities and poor physical health care received by people with learning disabilities and to encourage GPs to offer annual health checks.
Julie’s enthusiasm and determination to succeed saw her enroll on a practice nurse course and network with many other practice nurses to understand the issues in general practice. This enabled her to work in GP surgeries, initially in Okehampton and then throughout Mid-Devon, and use her skills and leadership to get agreement to offer annual health checks to people with learning disabilities.
Since starting her work some 18 months ago Julie has seen 250 people and found people with undiagnosed diabetes, hypertension and ear problems that affected people’s hearing as well as other problems that were referred back to doctors and other nurses for ongoing treatment.
As Julie comments: “I would like to thank everyone at Okehampton Medical Centre for their support in the early stages and during my practice nurse course. I am most proud of the fact that I have raised the profile of people with learning disabilities and had such a high attendance at the clinics with very few people not attending their appointments. Barriers and misconceptions about people with disabilities have been removed and people have been seen as individuals. I feel that lives have been improved especially those with diabetes who were unable to voice how they felt and are now receiving regular treatment and excellent care from their GPs.
I have made subtle changes to the way surgeries do things by increasing appointment times and improving the way in which information is sent to people who cannot read.“
Alison Moores, Executive Nurse adds: “The work that Julie has done is the first of its kind in Devon and with no guidelines at the initial stage Julie was very much working on her own and creating the role as she went along. Her leadership, persuasiveness and determination have meant she has been able to help many people receive the care and treatment they need and the award is very well deserved.”
The publication of the Clinical Direct Enhanced Services (DES) guidance has raised the profile of the health needs of people with learning disabilities and requires GP practices to offer annual health checks to their patients with moderate to severe disabilities.
Julie adds: “As a result of this publication I am to remain in my current post and continue to work with GP practices helping them to achieve the DES directives with the emphasis on the surgery staff now taking the lead.”
John Sergeant, Julie Wilkins, Sir Michael Pitt, Chair of the South West Strategic Health Authority.