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"The young people are at the heart of the partnership service and they are getting the support they need"

For young people living with arthritis, transitioning from paediatric to adult services in the NHS can be a daunting experience. Versus Arthritis in Scotland provides integrated support to 16-25 year olds to aid young people as they embark on the next part of their treatment journey. The Joint Potential Plus service provides support at the point of clinic to young people, explaining the new processes and helping them gain independence in living well with the condition.

Gillian Meens, Service Manager for the Young People and Families service at Versus Arthritis in Scotland explains that accessing adult services can prove to be a difficult time.

“We still very much have a medical model existing in our culture whereby the doctor is the authority. That dynamic is particularly highlighted when young people are going from paediatric to adult services, there’s a stark contrast between the two. It can be a particularly anxiety-ridden time for some people trying to get to grips with adult services.”

Gillian highlights that the Joint Potential Plus team are able to bring an added element to the clinical setting. In a new environment this helps young people accessing the service with confidence levels and getting the most out of their appointments.

The approach is youth-friendly, and relationships are key. The expertise of the Joint Potential Plus team is very much around having conversations with young people and putting them at ease. With health professionals taking a focus on the clinical elements, this fills a gap and allows important exchanges to happen.

Sometimes, Gillian says, those conversations are around sensitive topics including sex, drugs and alcohol, all of which are important to the overall wellbeing of the young person. With strong relationships in place staff are able to complement the clinical input with a holistic look at each person’s needs.

One of the advantages for Joint Potential Plus of working with young people at the point of attending clinic is to sign-post them to the service’s other offerings including workshops, events and weekend trips away. This opens up opportunities for young people who can be otherwise isolated by the challenges of their condition.

Gillian, who has arthritis, is passionate about the service. She says: “This service didn’t exist when I was diagnosed. I was in adult services surrounded by older adults who were quite significantly disabled. I was there as a 19 year old worrying about my future and feeling very, very isolated and just finding no support.”

Now she states that the aim of the overall Joint Potential Plus service is to reach even more young people to support them in their journey. There are challenges, of course. The team are relatively small and have to adapt to different ways of working in each clinical setting, finding the right people to speak to, navigating paperwork and getting to know the dynamics of the clinical teams.

The Joint Potential Plus team, however, are very much going “head first into things”, says Gillian, and have achieved a lot in the first four years of the project. All in all, as Gillian states, the young people are at the heart of the partnership service and they are getting the support they need.