Stammering support group for Dorset children leads NHS staff innovation awards

23rd May 2023

A pioneering proposal to set up a county-wide social support group for children who stammer, and their families, has scooped funding from a Dorset NHS trust.

The Stammering Support Initiative has won Dorset HealthCare’s annual staff innovation competition, Dragons’ Den, while a further nine other projects have also been awarded cash support – bringing the overall total to more than £15,100 – to help improve patient care.

Dragons’ Den invites staff from across all of the Trust’s community and mental health services to come up with fresh ideas to benefit patients and/or carers. People are asked to provide evidence of likely benefits and show how such projects could be sustained over a long period.

A record 3,100 staff and members of the public voted for their favourite proposals this year, with the people behind the top five then pitching to a panel of ‘dragons’ – as on the BBC-TV show – to secure an investment and bring their ideas to fruition.

The Stammering Support Initiative was the brainchild of speech and language therapists Carla Mitchell and Jenny Beston. Stammering affects eight per cent of children, impacting their confidence, wellbeing and relationships, yet there are no specialist support groups in Dorset.

The pair were awarded £2,600 to establish a community social group to help build confidence, reduce anxiety and make lasting social connections for children who stammer and their families.

And the other four proposals which made the final also scooped cash investment from the panel. These included:

  • Sensory Toolkit Library (£1,500) – this will allow mums to try out different aids to help manage anxiety and other extreme emotions they can experience during and after pregnancy
  • Emergency Care Physiotherapy Works (£3,231) – a pilot project placing an emergency physiotherapist in Weymouth’s Urgent Treatment Centre to provide specialist assessments and help improve outcomes for patients
  • Emotional Wellbeing Toolkits (£750) – providing children and young people with a range of tools and strategies to manage their emotions and feelings, especially during times of anxiety, stress and low mood
  • LEAD by Example: Learning Essentials about Learning Disabilities (£600) – this will fund a pocketbook guide to help GPs and other health professionals complete assessments, provide treatments and recognise complex issues among patients with learning disabilities.

And the good news didn’t stop there. The ‘dragons’ were so impressed with the calibre of entries this year that the other five ideas which went to the public vote were also given start-up funding.

This will total just under £6,500, and be used to support projects including art activities for dementia patients, yoga clinics, after-care for leg ulcer patients, events for people with disabilities and their carers, and connecting relatives of people with learning disabilities.

Outgoing Trust Chair and chief ‘dragon’ Andy Willis said:

“I've done this now for six years and it just gets more and more difficult [to choose a winner]. The margins were just so small between 1st and 2nd, and then the rest were also very, very close.

"I'm incredibly pleased we also managed to get some money together so that all the colleagues behind the top ten submissions will get their projects funded. They were all incredibly worthwhile ideas, which we feel could make a huge difference to patients.

“I’d like to say a huge thank-you to everyone who took part in the competition, and also to those who voted – showing the depth of public support for these fantastic projects.”

For more details of all ten projects, and to watch a video of this year’s Dragons’ Den final, visit our website page.

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