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Medical appointment support for people with learning disabilities

Wednesday, 14 July, 2021
Medical appointment support for people with learning disabilities

A North East NHS trust and charity have teamed up to create ‘easy read’ resources to help reduce the fears and anxieties of people with learning disabilities during appointments.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has worked in partnership with Learning Disability North East to produce a range of health cards which hold information about issues such as pain and symptoms, blood pressure, tests and samples, along with weight management and lifestyle advice, in simple text, pictures and colour-coded sections.

The aim of the cards is to help communication with patients with learning disabilities to ensure that symptoms, treatment, tests and other advice can be understood and passed on in an easy-to-understand manner.

As well as being used by healthcare professionals during appointments, they can help receptionists and others to gain initial information and have also been given to community teams to help support patients before they attend their appointments.

Sam Gibson, specialist learning disability acute liaison nurse for Northumbria Healthcare’s Safeguarding & Learning Disability Acute Liaison service, said: “This has been an invaluable opportunity to really help those with additional needs understand what will happen when they come for an appointment with us.

“Visiting a clinical setting can be intimidating, and even more so for those who need extra support. We’re really putting wheels in motion to help relieve these anxieties for some of our most vulnerable visitors – it’s compassionate care at its best.”

The resources are available online at and are currently being distributed across the trust in Northumberland and North Tyneside. They are fully wipeable for use by multiple patients, while the digital versions can be downloaded onto iPads or tablets.

Julie Redpath, projects manager at Learning Disability North East said, “As an organisation we are extremely passionate about reducing health inequalities often experienced by people who have a learning disability. It has been great to work in collaboration with Northumbria Healthcare to produce our range of easy read health cards.

“The health cards are a great resource that can be used in various settings to help reduce people’s anxieties and fears when attending health related appointments, and to ultimately help improve access to health services.”

Jane Frenette, patient experience co-ordinator at Northumbria Healthcare, who was instrumental in producing the cards said, “Working in collaboration with LD North East has been a privilege and the resource we have produced to support patients with Learning Disability needs has been really favourably received.  Samantha Gibson has done an amazing job in the distribution of the cards and I can’t thank her enough for her support.”