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Supporting patients with learning disabilities through COVID-19

Being treated at hospital can be more challenging for patients with learning disabilities and autism. So ensuring that they are supported through the COVID-19 pandemic has been the priority of a specialist team at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

Usually patient-facing, COVID-19 has seen the Learning Disability and Autism Team adapt their ways of working so they can continue to have contact remotely with their patients and enable them to access care safely. A great deal of time has been spent creating new guidance and ways to support patients, their families and carers.

Much of that guidance and support has been shared with the community online, growing their membership of a Facebook 'Learning Disability Forum' hosted by UHS, to connect, support and inform patients about COVID-19 and other health-related issues.

The team has also produced a newsletter to help the community keep up to date with the latest changes.

The team also has been reviewing the Hospital Passport system to check details are up to date and relevant should patients need to be admitted.  The passport is a document that is completed in advance of any admission or visit which includes information around what extra provision might be needed, and any likes and dislikes that can help them manage the experience of being in hospital better.

The team has also been providing assistance to patients who have come into hospital with a COVID-19 positive diagnosis. Most recently the team has assisted clinical staff with the management of a patient with who has been in GICU with COVID-19 for just under a month.  With no immediate family, the team have had supported the GICU with their referral for a mental capacity advocate in the event the patient required a tracheotomy, and took learnings to ensure this process is dealt with quickly in similar situations in the future.

By liaising with the patient’s service manager they have been able to ensure that he is surrounded by pictures that have been adapted in line with infection prevention guidance to ensure he has some familiar and comforting images around him.

The team have spent the last few months working hard to improve the information available to patients, their families and carers. They’ve produced COVID-19 specific guidance on a variety of  topics including a Coronavirus newsletter to help their patients understand the pandemic and manage their health through it.

Please download the resources that are available in the downloads section of this page that have been produced to assist with communicating some of the key actions around managing COVID-19.