Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dispelling the fear of hospitals

Nicci Issac 
Many children and adults with a learning disability and autism receive poor healthcare in our hospitals. Some die prematurely of preventable illnesses. There are a number of reasons for this. One of those reasons is fear.

Fear on behalf of the person with learning disability or autism not understanding what is going to happen to them in hospital and if it’s going to hurt. This makes them not want to go to hospital.

Fear on behalf of the hospital staff about how to explain things or about how somebody with a disability might behave when they are anxious or frightened. There have been many reports such as ‘Death by Indifference’ to try and change things in our hospitals but the effect has been very limited.

The trust has developed a project with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Education Leeds to try and improve this situation. This is part of the ‘Get Me Better’ campaign. We worked with one of the Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre (SILC’s) and took a group of young people with learning disability and autism and visited some of the key departments in St James Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary such as A&E and where you go if you have broken a bone. 

This project helped reduce the anxieties and fear that the young people felt. We met and spoke to lots of hospital staff who really wanted to help. This gave the hospital staff a chance to meet real people with a disability in a supportive setting so that they build their confidence in supporting people with a disability. We plan to organise this on a rolling programme involving all the SILC’s in Leeds and the inclusion units in mainstream schools.  

Nicci Issac, Professional Lead for Children's Learning Disability Nursing


  1. A very helpful article addressing a key issue for vulnerable young people accessing much needed medical care.