Expert Insights

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06th April 2016

Help to navigate health care

Hospitals and other health providers have launched a series of videos and pamphlets to help people with learning disability that need to attend appointments, undergo screening or who are affected by ill health.

I don’t know about you, but I get a bit anxious about attending hospital appointments. I wonder where to park, how to find the department I need, what the doctor will be like. I wonder if it will take long, whether I will get results at once or be in for a lengthy wait. I wonder if they will have my notes, whether a blood test (yikes) will be needed and if I should pester my partner into coming with me.

All this anxiety and I’m a middle aged senior health professional. I should probably know better, or at least get a grip. But what about people who need support to understand even the basics about going to hospital? It’s a well-researched fact that our primary and secondary care services are failing people with learning disabilities. There is a lack of understanding into the specific needs of this vulnerable group; the difficulty faced in communicating their symptoms or demonstrating when they are feeling unwell can mean busy health professionals might overlook important signs and indicators. The consequences are often tragic.

Information at a click

So the good news is that a number of hospitals and trusts have produced a series of free access videos that show examples of what to expect from hospital appointments. These show a variety of scenarios; some very specific to individual trust hospitals but others that are more generic in nature. They have a well-paced narration and subtitles, show real life people attending appointments and provide handy help on what to bring and what to expect.

Find videos from University College Hospitals London here

And the accompanying paper guides can be downloaded from

The sense from Scotland

Another resource is the wonderful NHS Lanarkshire website where a wealth of video and downloadable material guides you through a wide variety of experiences in health care. There are so many choices, such as self-examination, women’s health, tests and screening as well as a resource for health professionals to download easy-read templates for health letters. Genius!

Click here for this resource

Primary Care in Kent

A third invaluable and insightful resource is the NHS Kent Community Foundation trust which explains what will happen at a health check, with very simple narration and clear information on what to expect. The video uses real life people with learning disabilities undergoing examination at the surgery and is well paced and easy to follow.

Find this here

With all of this material available (and more if you have time to search) there are many ways to help people navigate the health system and get the access to good medical support that they need. You can use the reference information here, or why not create more bespoke information for the people you support? Using video, audio, easy-read or pictorial descriptions can be really powerful, particularly if you relate it to familiar people and places.

Ginny Tyler – QCS Learning Disability Expert Contributor

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