Providing compassionate trauma-informed care to young people

Teams across the Somerset system have been working together, to change the way we approach the care and treatment of young people and their families.

Some young people who come into our services at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust are from very complex backgrounds, and have complicated or challenging histories. This can affect their experiences of accessing healthcare.

We set up a trauma-informed care steering group to change the way we support people, and to help our teams gain more understanding of what’s happened to a person and the impact this has on their mental and physical health.

This trauma-informed care approach helps teams to develop new ways to help young people, gaining an understanding of where behaviour has come from, identifying new ways to engage with a person's family, and working with supportive agencies in our communities to deliver safe and compassionate care. A better understanding of why behaviours happen can help health and care professionals support a young person and their family in the most appropriate way for their individual circumstances.

Following our merger in April 2020, teams across the trust have been able to interact and work together seamlessly, reducing barriers and helping to improve outcomes for people. Working across different agencies and teams helps us to provide support from many different health and social care professionals, including psychologists, social care, CAMHS, schools and more.

A Somerset family who recently received care informed by the trauma-informed approach to care have asked us to share their story anonymously:

The family had been known to our various services for many years and came from a complex background, with a great deal of historical trauma throughout generations in their family. Beth* came into our services for care and treatment of her long-term condition. She was struggling to manage the demands of a complicated health condition, along with experiencing fluctuating levels of mood and behaviour.

Over a long period, her situation escalated.  Our health and social care teams took time to understand where her behaviours came from and were able to work closely with the family to build strategies to help to support Beth. Our consultant predicted that Beth would very likely be admitted to hospital. She’d likely refuse treatment, so they worked with her, as well as her family, wider team, ambulance service and police to put in place a plan for if or when this happened.

Sometimes her refusal of treatment could be because of a small but significant aspect, such as a facial expression that would resonate with previous traumatic experiences, and this could make her feel threatened and find it difficult to accept care. Beth became seriously unwell with symptoms caused by her long-term condition and initially refused to engage with health and social care colleagues. Her parents followed the agreed plan of what to do if this happened and phoned the ambulance who had the right information to help her get to hospital. Ambulance colleagues helped Beth stay calm during her journey into hospital and on arrival she was given age-appropriate choices of treatment with clear plans on what happens next and delivered in a way so that she felt supported rather than criticised. This gave Beth power over her care and treatment and helped her to agree to accept treatment.

The family told us that they found our care very compassionate and reassuring, which was amazing to hear given everything they had been through in their lives up until that point. This is a great example of responsive trauma-informed care taking place and we are very proud to be able to provide this in Somerset.