Norfolk NHS Children's Psychologist Named in Queen's Birthday Honours

mel bruce pic

A community NHS psychologist, who works to improve the lives of children and their families across Norfolk, has been named as a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. 

Dr Melanie Bruce, Clinical Psychologist with Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C), and lead of the Starfish Plus service, is to be awarded the British Empire Medal for her service to children and families in Norfolk. 

Starfish Plus is a unique and innovative multi-disciplinary team, which works in the community to support children aged between four and 18 who have a learning disability and who are at risk of being unable to continue to live at home as a result of behaviour that is challenging and/or mental health difficulties. 

The service often works with children and young people with learning disabilities when there is a very high risk that, as a result of their behaviour, they may be detained under the mental health act or live a long way away from their families in a residential setting. 

Mel, who has had to keep her award a secret until now, said: “It was a complete shock - when they phoned I thought they were inviting me for jury service! 

“I feel a little embarrassed because I know so many people working in services for children across health, social care and education who all do amazing and incredible jobs, but I’m grateful to NCH&C for nominating me." 

The Starfish Plus team works innovatively, intensively and flexibly with each child, aiming, where appropriate, to enable the child and their family to stay together, to improve the child’s behaviour, mental health and communication so that they can continue to have positive family relationships, and enjoy and achieve in all areas of their life.

“I’m hoping that this will be a good way to raise awareness of children with learning disabilities, especially those who have behaviour that is challenging as many people are not aware of the challenges that children and their families face, and they often very limited choices,” Mel continued. 

“Many families across the country are faced with incredibly difficult decisions to make, such as their child living hundreds of miles away from them or their child being admitted to a specialist hospital for potentially a very long time. 

“I very strongly believe that all children have the right to live with their families and do all the things that all children can do (go to school, have friends, and be happy) and that it is our challenge to understand and make sense of the behaviour so that the child can have a happy and fulfilled life.” 

Alan Hunter, Head of Children’s Services at NCH&C said: “Mel is without doubt one of the most dedicated clinicians I have ever had the privilege to work with, and we are all incredibly proud of her. 

“She continually demonstrates an exceptional breadth of knowledge and experience in supporting children and young people who have learning disabilities and severe mental health difficulties, and shows tireless commitment and dedication in working to ensure the child’s voice is heard, especially when the child may not be able to “tell” us themselves.”

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