Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust up for award for its work with people with disabilities

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has been shortlisted for an award for its scheme to give internships to people with autism or learning disabilities.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) has included the Trust on its list for the Learning Disabilities Initiative of the Year Award, as part of the publication’s annual Patient Safety Awards.

The Trust’s internship programme is called Project SEARCH, and is a partnership between Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Queensmill School – a school for autistic children in Askham Road, Shepherd’s Bush – Hammersmith and Fulham council and Action on Disability, which promotes inclusiveness for the disabled.

Based at the Trust’s West Middlesex University Hospital site, in Isleworth, Project SEARCH offers young people with autism and/or learning disabilities an academic year-long internship, rotating between three departments, to build students’ skills and develop their career paths.

Each student works with a team that includes family members, job coaches and employment co-ordinators to create their employment goals.

Together they develop the support the student needs for their successful transition from education to the workplace.

Kathryn Mangold, one of the nurses at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust involved in the scheme, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted for this award.

“We are really proud of all the interns that have participated in the programme. Working across the hospital, they have demonstrated just how much can be achieved with the right support.

They are a huge talent pool which hasn’t been tapped into before. By starting a Project SEARCH programme, we have been able to give young people with a disability the chance at an internship which they may have otherwise found difficult to access due to stricter acceptance criteria.”

Lindsay Thompson, job coach for Project SEARCH, has followed the students from their time at Queensmill School, said: “It is really positive to see our students, who I have known for years, really adapt to a mainstream environment.

“We are all adapting from a specialist school environment to a very different, hospital setting and the support we have had from staff has been really helpful.

It has not only helped our students adapt and prepare for adulthood, but has also helped us to raise the profile of young people living with learning disabilities.”

Project SEARCH began in September 2018 at West Middlesex University Hospital with eight interns and four teachers/coaches.

The HSJ will announce the winners on July 2.

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