Health Service Journal Awards 2023: National award for autism and ADHD support pioneered by GPs in Bishop’s Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham
A life-changing support programme led by GPs in Bishop’s Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham has won a national award.
Waiting Well with Suspected Autism was designed in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children with suspected autism or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
The children and young people’s team from the Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network won the Primary Care Innovation of the Year category in the Health Service Journal Awards 2023. HSJ is a news service that covers policy and management in the NHS in England.
Doctors at three practices in Bishop’s Stortford – Church Street, South Street and Helix Medical Centre – Bell Street Surgery in Sawbridgeworth and Much Hadham Health Centre were concerned that children who were waiting a long time for a specialist appointment were missing out on school and hobbies, which could have a profound effect on their lives and their families.
The award-winning team has improved support for children and families in two main ways.
Firstly, an occupational therapist employed by the Stort Valley network of five GP practices completes the in-depth referral process required for each young person, speeding up the process and increasing the acceptance rate.
At the same time, a social prescriber, working closely with the occupational therapist, supports families with coping techniques and puts them in touch with groups and activities to improve their day-to-day quality of life.
As a result, young people have found the confidence to return to school and attend therapy sessions. Over 12 months, 175 children and young people with either autistic spectrum disorder or ADHD referrals were helped by the project.
Church Street partner Dr Sian Stanley, clinical director at the Stort Valley and Villages PCN, said: “We’re delighted to have won this award. The whole team deserves to take great pride in this achievement as it is their hard work and commitment that has made the project successful.
“All the GP practices within our local network have been incredibly supportive and forward-thinking, helping to create something that has benefited so many in our community.
“Throughout the country, our young people are struggling, and locally we’ve been able to offer them support in their communities, which has been timely and easily accessible. I am proud to be a GP and clinical director – primary care is an incredible place to work.”
The same partnership approach has already helped more than 1,500 young people aged 11 to 25 to get local help for physical and mental health issues and has been expanded to include an outreach service for young people who are homeless.
Award judges described the initiative as “a compassionate and innovative response in an area where it had an evident impact”.
Dr Jane Halpin, chief executive officer at Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board, which plans, buys and provides health and care services in the area, said: “Huge congratulations to the team at Stort Valley and Villages Primary Care Network.
“The hard work and dedication of the staff involved in this award-winning scheme is clear to see, as is the positive impact it is having on children and young people.
“This is a great example of the way in which our networks of GP practices are staffed by a wide range of professionals with a host of specialist skills to offer their communities.
“Children deserve the best start in life, and this initiative shows how we can work together with their families to achieve that.”