Topic page providing information on some things you can do that might make visits to the dentist easier, for you and your relative, including planning reasonable adjustments and capacity to consent to treatment.
Is it difficult for your relative to access health appointments?
What should health professionals do to make it easier?
If your family member displays challenging behaviour, you might find it difficult to book or get to healthcare appointments, to get tests done or even to get the treatment your relative needs. The difficulties may be because your relative cannot tell you how they feel or finds it hard to cope with new places, new people or with waiting. If healthcare staff don’t understand or respect people with learning disabilities, or if the health service is inflexible, then getting healthcare can be even harder. Here are some of the things you can do to make things easier:
- Ask them to listen to your ideas and tell them about what the individual might find stressful during appointments to make things easier for everyone. Health professionals and NHS support staff (e.g. receptionists) should support all patients to access healthcare and be flexible to meeting the specific needs of patients with learning disabilities. They should listen to what parents or carers say. To help with this, people can have their own Health Action Plan and or Communication Passport (see details at end of information sheet). Always take the plan or passport to appointments.
- You can request ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable easier access to services for your relative. The Equality Act 2010 says that service providers, including hospitals and GP surgeries, must take reasonable steps to remove barriers which stop disabled people from having access to the same healthcare services as everyone else. Examples of adjustments which service providers can make include: early or late appointments, longer appointments, somewhere quiet to wait, priority appointments, easy read information. Also, when being referred for tests by a GP or other specialists, ask them to include any reasonable adjustments they might need to make in the referral letter. Disabled people accessing health services are also protected from direct or indirect discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.
- Ask if there is a Learning Disability Liaison Nurse (LDLN) who can help plan a hospital or GP Surgery visit. LDLN are specialist learning disability nurses, they have a better understanding of the needs your relative may have. They may be able to co-ordinate between different health professionals and might be there at the time of the appointment to help with anything extra needed on the day.
Where to find out more
- To download or listen to an example of an Easy Read Health Action Plan, visit the Easy Health website: Health Action Plans
- To find out more about communication passports, visit the Communication Passports website here.
- To find out more about what counts as a ‘reasonable adjustments’,visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website here.
- To read more about the Equality Act and direct and indirect discrimination please visit the Sense website here or the Mind website here.