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Exploring risk and SafeTy with leArning disabilitY clients in forensic Services: an evAluation oF Talking Mats a visual, Electronic, communications tool


The STAY SAFE study aims to evaluate the “Keeping Safe” Talking Mats tool with learning disability nurses in forensic services in NHS Fife to improve the assessment and treatment of adults with learning disabilities.  Approximately 7% of people in the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom have a learning disability (LD) compared with 2% of the general population. Adults with LD can have difficulty communicating their needs, leading to poor outcomes and greater health inequalities.

Nuanced conversations with people with learning disabilities can be facilitated through visualisations. Talking Mats has been developed to aid communication using visual signs and symbols.

STAY SAFE is a three phased ethnographic study designed to understand the lived experiences of learning disability nurses and adults with LD in forensic services who use Talking Mats. Interviews with both groups will be conducted before and after using the Keeping Safe resource to discuss perceptions of risk and safety. Observations of the tool being used in forensic services will be undertaken and a reflective journal recorded.

Talking Mats could enhance therapeutic conversations around risk and safety between learning disability nurses and their clients.  This could improve the assessment and treatment of adults with LD in forensic services leading to better outcomes. A series of knowledge exchange events with learning disability nurses, patient groups, third sector agencies, and policy makers will be run to share lessons learned from the STAY SAFE study.

This study was funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing in 2019.

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