Learn Real Lives

Going for Gold

L-R: Kelly, Dr Singh, staff member and customer

Kelly’s gold card scheme reduces stress at doctor visits

After attending a Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) conference in 2017, Kelly Roberts, service manager at three of Outlook Care’s residential care homes for people with learning disabilities in Romford, realised that while he could control stress triggers within each home’s environment, it was not so easy when outside factors came into play. He wanted to take action to protect the people he supported and believed the starting point should be the waiting room scenario.

For most of us, going to the doctor’s is not an upsetting experience.  However, when you have PMLD, a visit to the doctor’s, with the unstructured setting of the waiting room, the unfamiliar faces and the unexpected noises from buzzers to crying babies, can become a traumatic experience. Then you’re confronted with a GP who is unaware of your medical history, and the stress only gets worse.

Kelly wanted to find a way to ensure his customers would always feel safe and cared for. A naturally creative thinker, Kelly went to visit Doctor Singh of Lynwood Medical Centre in Romford to share his findings from the conference and to see what could be done to improve the quality of life and service provided for his customers.

Following discussions, Kelly and Doctor Singh worked in partnership and the Gold Card scheme was born, a priority pass for his customers with PMLD. Each Gold Card holder (there actually is a card with your name and a specific number on it) gets priority treatment as soon as the surgery is called by the service. The doctor will have your medical history in front of them and will respond immediately to any concerns on the phone. Should an appointment be necessary, the Gold Card holder will be seen straight away, and a special waiting room at the surgery is available so they can wait on their own, in peace and quiet, and are free to pace up and down as much as they like.

Doctor Singh showcases the Gold Card scheme at his surgery and is working with Kelly to promote greater awareness of it and to put pressure on other health providers to give priority to people with PMLD.  Currently the scheme is being rolled out in the Havering area and the plan is to launch within other surgeries.

Kelly began working for Outlook Care in 2002 as a support worker, becoming a team leader then a manager. He now manages three services and has continued to learn and to support customers to enjoy themselves and live their lives on their terms. The concept of the Gold Card is a good one, unique in fact, but it could easily have been ignored, swept aside on the basis that it was too much hard work for an already-overstretched NHS. But it was Kelly’s articulacy and passion for providing better support for customers with PLMD that convinced Dr Singh to run the pilot, with Kelly’s cooperation in one of his services.

The Gold Card scheme has removed a stress trigger that would sometimes make customers fearful of a visit to the doctor’s. This positive move has only increased the sense of calm that prevails at the service and has contributed to the ‘Good’ CQC report.

There are currently 7,454 GP practices in the UK, so there’s potentially plenty of room for growth. As the Gold Card scheme requires ‘buy-in’ from GPs, case studies are now being drafted to demonstrate the positive difference its adoption makes to the lives of patients; all it needs from GPs is an open mind and a willingness to entertain new thinking and it won’t cost a penny.

Edel Harris





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