What additional help or support is there for people with learning difficulties in hospital?

Easy read information leaflets
The learning disabilities team within the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust have produced leaflets in an easy read format for people with learning disabilities. this includes information on going into hospital, how and when to take your medicine, being discharged from hospital, how to contact the patient support and complaints team, health care and treatment options, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), consent and having a pre-operative check.

See the UHB NHS Trust website

Hospital learning difficulty Liaison Nurses
There are 4 hospital learning difficulty liaison nurses based within Bristol and South Glos. They work with any person with a learning difficulty over the age of 18 who is coming to hospital. There are liaison nurses based at Frenchay, Southmead, and the Bristol Royal Infirmary Hospitals.

The liaison nurses’ role is to enable people with a learning disability to have equal access to healthcare. When a referral is received, the liaison nurse will help the patient and their carer to identify their needs, and then liaise with the hospital to ensure that any reasonable adjustments are put in place.

For example, they can:

  • negotiate appointment times
  • as much as possible adapt the environment to suit the individual
  • produce easy read information to support understanding
  • locate quieter waiting areas
  • provide tours around the hospital to help reduce fears and anxieties

They also support staff in the hospital by providing awareness training and giving them support to work with patients on their wards or departments. 

Anyone can refer to the service, all you need to do is give them a call and they will see how they can help:

  • Frenchay Hospital: Jackie Rausi: 07796197656
  • Southmead Hospital: Emily Greentree 07795826075
  • BRI: Lorna Hayles/Kate Mcdermott 0117 3422113

Mencap Getting it Right charter
This is a charter which local NHS Trusts have signed up to that sets out the work they will do to make health services more accessible to people with learning difficulties. It commits to:

  • make sure that hospital passports are available and used
  • make sure that all our staff understand and apply the principles of mental capacity laws
  • appoint a learning disability liaison nurse in our hospital(s)
  • make sure every eligible person with a learning disability can have an annual health check
  • provide ongoing learning disability awareness training for all staff
  • listen to, respect and involve families and carers
  • provide practical support and information to families and carers
  • provide information that is accessible for people with a learning disability
  • display the Getting it right principles for everyone to see principles for everyone to see.

For more information visit Mencap’s website

Patient Profile at Frenchay and Southmead
People with learning disabilities and their carers are now being encouraged to complete a patient profile or a hospital ‘traffic light’ assessment to highlight the persons’ needs ready for any admission to hospital. These are available to download on or contact the liaison nurses and they will send you a copy.

Learning Disability Risk Assessment at Frenchay and Southmead
There is now a Learning Disability Risk Assessment that has to be completed by the admitting ward within 48 hours of admission to hospital. This identifies risks for the patient with a learning disability and supports staff to put reasonable adjustments in place.

Learning Disability Advisors (LD Advisors) at Frenchay and Southmead
These advisors are spread across these two hospital sites and support the work of the learning difficulty liaison nurses helping people with a learning disability in hospital. Their role is to help promote learning disabilities within their areas as well as supporting patients with a learning disability when they are admitted.

What specialist health care support is there for people with learning difficulties outside of hospital?

In Bristol there is a community-based health service for adults with learning difficulties. See their website

The Joint Learning Difficulties Service can give help and advice to  people with learning difficulties and their carers living in South Gloucestershire. See their fact sheet 

What additional help or support is there for people with learning difficulties at their GP?

Annual health checks
Mencap have been campaigning for annual health checks for people with a learning disability in ‘Death by indifference’ and ‘Treat me right!’ A new part of the contract between government and GPs means all people with a learning disability who are known to social services should get an annual health check.

What will the health check be?
People with a learning disability who are on the local authority register will be invited to come to their GP surgery for a health check. The check will include:

  • Physical health
  • Medication
  • Mental health
  • Transition reviews (where appropriate)
  • Epilepsy (where appropriate)

To be able to give the health check doctors, nurses and receptionists in the surgery will have to have training in learning disability. This training must include people with a learning disability, their families and carers.

Health action plans
A Health Action Plan details the actions that are required by each person with a learning difficulty, to maintain and improve their health and any help that might be needed to accomplish this. It is produced by or with them, with the support of a health facilitator.

Who is involved in the Health Action Plan Process?
A varied range of health professionals, including GP’s, hospital staff, practice nurses, district nurses and learning difficulty professionals may need to be involved at all stages of the Health Action Planning process. This may include helping people with learning difficulties and their health facilitators to identify, understand and participate in a wide range of actions to meet a diversity of individual health needs.

For more information on health action plans