Dr David Crichton’s blog: Making it easier to look after vulnerable people

This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 3 July, 2017

It’s said that one of the measures of a civilised society is how well it looks after the most vulnerable members of its society.

Some of Doncaster’s most vulnerable are those who have a learning disability. More than 1900 local people are currently are registered as having a learning disability and their condition means they often need some support when attending health care appointment.

Going to the GP surgery can be a quite a traumatic experience for some. Owing to the nature of their disability they may have difficulty with crowds, lack of space or waiting a long time. They may become anxious and distressed and upset other patients.

Communicating with healthcare professionals can also be a challenge, which means it’s very important that we make provision for their special needs, as they often have long term health problems that require regular monitoring.

Which is why I’m pleased the NHS in Doncaster has just introduced a simple, but effective, new ‘passport’ for local people who have a learning disability to take with them to appointments at GP surgeries.

My Primary Health Passport is a four page leaflet that contains lots of information about the person that will be useful to a health professional, such as any allergies, how they like to take their medication, and how to know they are in pain.

One of the pages has space for the holder to add what they are like when they are well and also when they are poorly. Clues for the latter could be, for example, feeling, sad, tearful or sleepy.

The passport was introduced in response to requests from local GPs like me. It helps us to quickly understand the individual needs of those who have a learning disability, which in turn helps our discussions during an appointment.

Louise, at the launch of the passport at Intake’s Sandringham Road health centre

Louise has a learning disability and helped develop the passport as part of the active part she plays in helping NHS organisations in Doncaster improve the services they provide for people like her. She regularly visits GP surgeries with health staff on fact-finding missions to see if they are learning disability ‘friendly’ and helpfully suggests making reasonable adjustments where they are not.

The primary health passport follows on from a similar document that was produced to help healthcare staff look after someone with a learning disability who needs to be admitted to hospital following an assessment. This is set out in a ‘traffic light’ system, with a red page indicating the things that must be known about the person, such as current medication, doses and times; an amber page that lists what’s important to the person, like sleep pattern and routine; and a green page that says what their likes and dislikes are.

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