Learning Disability Week: 60 seconds with Community Matron, Rose O’Connor

Published: 18th May 2023

In support of Learning Disability Week starting on 19 June, we are focusing on making sure the world hears what life is like if you have a learning disability and highlighting the vital role of our nurses in the provision of learning disability services in the trust. 

One of our wonderful community nurses, Rose O’Connor, has been qualified for 26 years. She began her career working with individuals with learning disabilities as a carer in Ireland for five years prior to moving to England in 1994 to train as a learning disability nurse. Since 1999, she has been working for CLCH as a community matron within the specialist learning disability nursing team in the Inner North West Division.

Read on to find out more about her work as a community matron and some of the challenges that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic.

How did you come to be a community matron for learning disabilities and what does your role involve?

I was initially the lead nurse based in Hammersmith and Fulham, and my role as the community matron for the learning disability service commenced in February 2021.

My role involves being responsible for the day-to-day management and clinical leadership of the community learning disability nursing team. I work closely with the Senior Public Health Practitioner which includes delivering the learning disability awareness training to primary care staff and supporting health services to identify and create reasonable adjustments to ensure the primary health needs of this population are fully met. This includes the development of pathways for specific health needs including diabetes.

What do you believe are the greatest challenges adults with learning disabilities face in the community or healthcare?

People with learning disabilities have complex health needs and comorbidities which can require a multi professional and multi service approach to ensure people with learning disability receive a holistic and integrated approach in supporting them to access health services.  

The COVID-19 pandemic sadly led to an increase in mortality, and we must continue to learn from the Life and Death Review Programme (LeDer) to identify preventable deaths of people with a learning disability and autism. It is crucial that we continue to improve the quality of care and address the unacceptable health inequalities faced by these individuals.

It can be difficult to navigate the health service, and a key role of the community learning disability nurse is to continue to advocate and provide health facilitation to enable individuals with learning disabilities to receive the care and treatment required.

As the population we support experiences poor health, poor access to healthcare, and poor outcomes, we all need to continue to strive to support individuals with learning disabilities to overcome barriers within healthcare. The NHS must make it easy for people with learning disabilities and autism to use health services, this is called making reasonable adjustments.    

Describe one of your best moments working as a community matron?

Being a part of a specialist community learning disability service that goes above and beyond to care for people with learning disabilities is one of my most proud moments. Another memorable experience is being a part of a team of dedicated nurses who always go above and beyond to provide excellent care to our patients.

What’s the best thing a patient has ever said to you?

You listen to me, you understand me and you support me very well.

Why are you proud to have chosen this career path?

The individuals who we support, including families and carers deserve the highest quality care and support and I am proud to be able to support this vulnerable cohort of patients as a community matron.

Visit the NHS website to read more about Learning Disabilities

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