Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

NHS trust boss undertakes ‘life swap’ with man with Down’s syndrome

HPFT Tom Cahill and JohnThe chief executive of an NHS Foundation Trust recently took part in a ‘life swap’ for a day where he shadowed a service user with Down’s syndrome to find out what his life is really like.

Tom Cahill, chief executive of Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, spent the day with John, a service user from Stevenage who has Down’s syndrome and early onset dementia.

The pair spent time at John’s day service centre, before returning to his residential care home. Cahill was able to see John’s daily routine and what he got up to in everyday life. They talked about sports and John showed him pictures of his family.

“I knew it was something I wanted to experience and I was really excited about it,” said Tom. “I found it very refreshing to take time out and spend time with an individual and see what his life is like.

“I also watched the staff who support John and other service users and their care and compassion was incredible. They clearly love the people they work with. They talk to them as individuals and as adults, which is exactly how it should be. It was interesting to see how responsive the staff were in meeting the different needs of the individuals they care for.

“It’s about quality of life. It reminded me of the importance of the services we provide for people with learning disabilities and the dedication of our staff.”

At the end of the day, the pair said goodbye, but they will meet again when John spends the day with Cahill to experience a day in the life of a chief executive. Knowing John was a Tottenham Hotspur FC supporter, Cahill gave him a gift of a scarf for his favourite team, which he loved.

“I’d like to thank John for letting me spend the day with him and I’m really looking forward to being able to return the favour and have him come and spend the day with me,” said Cahill.

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