A CARING family background has helped Jainab Desai improve services for hundreds of local children and adults with learning disabilities.

Today, her title of Nurse Specialist in Learning Disabilities/Acute Liaison, based at the Royal Bolton Hospital, fails to completely convey not only her remit but also the success that her commitment has achieved.

To recognise her motivation, it’s important to go back to her family life in Blackburn. Here, her father worked in the textile mills and her mother looked after Jainab and her 10 brothers and sisters.

“It has always been a very loving and supportive family,” explained Jainab, now 49. “My mother is a particularly caring person and she taught us all compassion and to be kind to other people. It’s perhaps a measure of her influence that my four sisters are all nurses and very successful in their own different fields.”

Jainab went to Billinge High School and from an early age showed artistic ability. “I didn’t see myself as a nurse but as someone like an art therapist, working with people with learning disabilities,” she stated.

She volunteered with a local Mind 2 group and, gradually she realised that a nursing qualification would be useful to her plans. So, after attending Blackburn College and then Accrington College for further qualifications, she began her nurse training. Jainab soon knew, though, that this was what she was destined to be.

In 1992, she qualified as a Learning Disability Nurse and took a post covering maternity leave in a Children and Young People’s Assessment and Behavioural Unit in Bolton. This gave her an early opportunity to understand about people with learning difficulties and their carers, their own daily lives, which would prove very valuable in her future work.

In 1994, she became involved in the development of an Equal Access Service in Bolton. This helped to identify and address the needs of people with learning disabilities from ethnic minority groups. “I’ve always felt strongly that we have a duty to enable everyone to access medical services,” stated Jainab.

“There were a lot of barriers to be broken down here – like there were at all hospitals. It was a matter of trying to help the patients and carers and educate the medical staff towards a better understanding all round.”

From 2004, Jainab was employed as a Learning Disability Community Nurse and then became the hospital’s Liaison Nurse in 2006.

This happened after an active campaign by parents and carers and Bolton Council to create this permanent post. She is now employed by the Council at the hospital and both authorities have input into her work.

Two national reports have been instrumental over the years in helping change thinking on how people with learning disabilities are dealt with in hospital.

But, on the ground, it is the work of unusual people like Jainab which has implemented a practical, caring approach to make a genuine difference.

The outcome is a system that initially alerts staff who bring in Jainab and this kickstarts various processes – “reasonable adjustments” to the NHS – which allow better bespoke care for individuals.

Thanks to Jainab’s training of staff, they know that, for example, if a patient with learning disabilities comes into hospital for a particular procedure, it might be better for them to have other necessary tests at the same time to reduce stress. This approach also recognises the role of carers and their importance in a patient’s wellbeing and recovery.

Leading all these initiatives from the front has always been Jainab, with her ready smile and great determination.

Her ongoing success has been officially recognised this year. She was invited to the Palace to meet Prince Charles and in October received the Chairman and Chief Executive’s Special Award at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust’s own annual awards. She has also been invited to be one of 70 nurses nationally on the Florence Nightingale Foundation Windrush Leadership Programme.

Jainab’s own leadership has already made a huge difference to the experiences of patients with learning disabilities coming into the Royal Bolton Hospital. However, she wants to take this further and establish Link Champions around the hospital to work within their own teams in the same way.

“I have been very grateful for all the support from the parents and carers, from Bolton Council and from the hospital,” she added. “We have achieved important improvements together.

“I am absolutely determined that all patients have the right to suitable medical care and that, together, we will achieve that.”