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How lessons of the past still inform our decisions

Museum exhibit: A sketch of Glenside HospitalGlenside Hospital Museum provided a thought-provoking setting for training with some of Brandon's trustees and Executive Leadership Team recently.

The museum is in the grounds of the hospital which opened in 1861 as the Bristol Lunatic Asylum and is now the University of the West of England's Faculty of Health and Social Care.

The Brandon training session covered the social care journey for people with learning disabilities. Despite significant improvements in care and support in the last 25 years, people with a learning disability still face significant inequalities.

Many people at Brandon started their careers at Glenside or nearby Stoke Park Hospital. Part of Stoke Park was the Dower House, still an imposing landmark overlooking the M32 motorway in Bristol.

Sharing experiences

Brandon's Head of Learning and Development, Julie Plant, shared with the group her experiences of training to be a Learning Disabilities Nurse at Stoke Park in the 1980s.

"Care at the hospital came down to the three Bs – bowels, baths and beds. Everything was run by the psychiatrist – even patients' pocket money was signed off by the psychiatrist.

"There was a lack of dignity for patients and the care was not respectful of individuals. Some patients' behaviour was challenging, but often that was because of the hospital environment.

"I remember a mother and daughter were both patients, but no-one realised they were related. I'm happy to say that they were reunited when the hospital closed and lived together for many years. Brandon still supports the daughter to this day."

Brandon Director of Operations Tanya Abbott, who also started out at Stoke Park Hospital which closed in 1997, said: "The terms 'idiot' and 'imbecile' were still common then. Patients had little or no possessions – and possessions were used to control behaviour. I remember people's shoes were taken away to stop them running away. Brandon still supports people who keep their shoes under the arms for safety – they don't want them to be taken away.

"These controlling ways are still something that the sector needs to be mindful of today – how do we allow someone to be themselves but safely?"

Support in the future

Brandon trustees and leadership teamThe trustees and executive team explored how these experiences can help guide Brandon's provision of support in the future. The session challenged them to consider social stereotypes and how we can affect positive change in the sector. A series of sketches performed by Misfits, a theatre company led by people with learning difficulties, underlined the challenges and prejudices still faced today.

Trustee Chris Mahood said of the day: "It was moving and challenging to learn about how people with learning disabilities were treated in the past. Some practices intended to be a kindness, we now appreciate were wrong. It's a crucial lesson, particularly for the executive team and trustees: we need to learn from the mistakes of the past and continue to put quality of care at the heart of our decision-making."

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