As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS wants to help people with a learning disability or autism to live healthier lives by making services easier to use, investing in training, and offering more wellbeing support.
The public now have an opportunity to say what changes they want NHS services to make where they live. Local services will use the NHS Long Term Plan to inform improvements, so it’s vital that the public speak up about what’s needed for their communities.
June is a Healthwatch volunteer and works closely with autistic people or have a learning disability. She says local services don’t always take the time find out what people want, and need to do more to make services better.
“Autistic people and people with learning disabilities need to be valued and respected as major contributors towards improving all aspects of NHS care,” June says.
“I think health services should make their information much more accessible, whether that’s through easy read literature or awareness training. More understanding and awareness is needed as some people [with autism or a learning disability] need time to process information, for example at a GP or hospital appointment.
“Key staff need training to support autistic people or people with learning disabilities appropriately and recognise issues, such as sensory overload. This can really help if someone is feeling overwhelmed.
“My personal experience is that services are very patchy with what support works well. There’s more to do and it’s a long steep climb,” she says.
Three ways health services can be more inclusive
June thinks services can do more to help people share their feedback. Here are her top tips for how to do this.
- Give people information they can understand
It’s great when the public are consulted about changes to health and social care. Services and local organisations should always provide information about any changes, plans or consultations in a way that people with autism or a learning disability can understand. For example, an easy read version could support more people to have their say.
- Help people feel comfortable giving their feedback
Whether it’s giving people the time to say what they think, or providing a quiet space to do so, services need to make people feel comfortable.
- Train all staff to be more inclusive
All staff, from professionals to receptionists, should learn how to support and autistic person or someone who has a learning disability. Small steps, such as good communication, can make a real difference to people’s experiences.