Highlighting collaborative working between the NHS and social care through the Once for Wales Health Profile

By David O’Brien, NHS Executive Wales and Jim Widdett, Social Care Wales

In the realm of health and social care, one size does not fit all. This is particularly true when it comes to providing care for adults with a learning disability. Individuals often face unique challenges when accessing services and have specific needs that must be addressed to ensure they receive equitable and effective care.

The introduction and use of the Once for Wales Health Profile within the NHS and social care services are pivotal steps toward achieving this goal. Last week it was Learning Disability Week, which gave us the opportunity to encourage our colleagues across health and social care to find out more about the Health Profile and to ask their patients and clients with a learning disability for their copy of the profile.

Once for Wales Health Profile

The Health Profile is a document that includes crucial information about a person’s medical history, communication preferences, behavioural patterns, and the specific support they need in various settings.

The Health Profile allows health and social care professionals to develop personalised care plans tailored to the unique needs of each individual. These plans can significantly improve the quality of care, ensuring that all interventions are appropriate and effective. For instance, the required adjustments due to a person’s learning disability.  

The profile encourages a holistic approach to health by considering not just the medical but also the social, emotional, and psychological needs of the individual. This comprehensive perspective ensures that all aspects of the person’s well-being are addressed, leading to better overall outcomes.

For individuals who interact with multiple services, the Health Profile ensures consistency and continuity of care. By having a standardised document that is shared across different services, each provider can be fully informed about the individual’s needs and the necessary adjustments, leading to a more seamless and coordinated care experience.

The Health Profile is designed to be owned by the individuals and if required a carer can help complete it. There are guidance notes available for professional, with spate adult and children / young people versions produced.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of good health and social care. The profile provides insights into the preferred communication methods of the individual, whether it be through sign language, pictures, or simplified language. This ensures that the individual fully understands their care and can actively participate in decision-making processes.

Many adults with learning disabilities exhibit behaviours that are responses to unmet needs or communication difficulties. The Health Profile helps staff understand the reasons behind certain behaviours, enabling them to respond appropriately and compassionately. This understanding can prevent misunderstandings and reduce the likelihood of challenging behaviours escalating.

The Health Profile also clarifies what reasonable adjustments an individual may need. These are changes to the way we might do things to help individuals with disabilities access services, such as longer appointment times or quiet waiting rooms.  The Equality Act 2010 mandates that organisations make reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled individuals are not at a substantial disadvantage.

The Health Profile helps to bridge the gap between standard service provision and personalised care required to meet the needs of these individuals. Ultimately, its widespread adoption and proper implementation can lead to more equitable, compassionate, and effective care, enhancing the quality of life for people with a learning disability.

If the health and social care workforce embrace this tool and commit to the continuous improvement of their practices, we can ensure that every individual is afforded the dignity and quality of care they deserve.

For more information on the work of the NHS Wales Executive and Social Care Wales visit our websites and find out more about the Once for Wales Health Profile here.