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A successful pilot project has resulted in a 47 per cent increase in the number of disabled staff working at the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (PCT).The PCT has appointed nine people with learning difficulties as permanent members of staff to work in the public health team after they spent nine months in a pilot project known as the Champs team. The latter was a partnership between the PCT, learning disability partnership board and Cornwall Works for Learning Disabilities, explained Kate Milton, senior equality and human rights manager at NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. “This initiative was part of the government strategy of ‘Valuing People’ and was about peer education and health training. The board agreed in January that they would have permanent posts which started in April this year,” said Milton.The nine new members of staff, known as "Champs", will work on a variety of projects, explained Jon Sparkes, director of workforce development for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. “They will train medical practitioners about working with people with learning difficulties and helping us to develop our managers to work with employees with learning difficulties. In addition, they will also be checking our services are accessible to people with learning difficulties.”Employing the new members of staff will mean that the trust can "road-test" initiatives around public health, added Sparkes. “We want to make the NHS more accessible to people with learning difficulties both as an employer and a service provider. It’s all about understanding what the customer needs.”During the pilot project, the Champs helped the PCT produce simplified information on public health, explained Milton. “They have helped us produce easy-read information, for example 'Your way to health' which guides people with learning disabilities through all of the services available for them through the local NHS. They also helped dispense with much of the common jargon used - 'A&E' for example, and helped us produce some DVDs, including one for clinicians on hospital discharge for someone with learning disabilities.”The HR team trained members of staff known as "buddies" to support the Champs during the pilot, explained Sparkes. “These buddies work with the people with learning difficulties to help them find their way through being employed and the various systems and processes in place.”The HR team is currently training managers to understand the benefit of working with individuals with learning difficulties, added Milton.“As we train managers and raise awareness, over time this will change their HR practices and the way they manage people and that will become mainstream and par for the course,” she said.