Learning Disabilities and Autism

At RJAH, we are committed to meeting the requirements of the Equality Act (2010) and also the Accessible Information Specification (2016). These Acts outline that healthcare providers and organisations are required to make adaptations to their approaches and to demonstrate that the services they provide are as accessible to people who have a learning disabilities and autistic people as they are for the rest of the general population.


RJAH are rolling out the Oliver McGowan mandatory training on learning disability and autism to ensure our staff have the right skills and knowledge to provide safe, compassionate and informed care to autistic people and people with a learning disability. More about the training can be found here.


We would be grateful for your feedback on both this page and on your experience at RJAH to our Patient Advice and Liaison Team and our #ImproveTheNextJourney initiative. Please direct any feedback to Bethan Mallen, Adult Safeguarding Practitioner, at bethan.mallen@nhs.net.


Ask Listen Do – feedback, concerns and complaints


Improving experiences and outcomes for children and adults who are autistic or have a learning disability, their families and carers.


Ask Listen Do resources are designed to:

  • support organisations to listen, learn from and improve the experiences of children and adults who are autistic or have a learning disability, their families and carers
  • make it easier for people, families and paid carers to give feedback, raise concerns and complain.


Some of these resources can be found here.


Speakup self advocacy group, together with other self-advocates, have written some free resources. Some of the resources are for people with a learning disability. The other ones are for autistic people. These are also linked below along with their webpage.


Reasonable adjustments and access requirements


People with learning disabilities and/or autism may need particular adjustments or support to help make healthcare services easier for them to access and more of a positive experience when they do. These will be individual to each patient.


This legal duty is pre-emptive, which means a service should know about a person’s need for adjustments when they are referred or present for care. For this to happen, and for the best care to be delivered, adjustments need to be recorded and shared across the Trust. 


Sometimes we learn of patients’ needs when they are referred to our hospital, but this doesn’t always happen. To help us record this information we ask that you advise staff at your next visit what your requirements are, if any. It may be that you need a hoist to help you at an appointment, or an interpreter for communication needs, you may have a large wheelchair and require a more spacious meeting room for your appointment. Please let us know so we have this recorded and can plan for any further visits.


Mencap, a UK charity for people with learning disability, have recommended their top 10 reasonable adjustments. You can read these here.


There are also links on at the bottom of this page to help you to get the most out of your hospital visit. In particular, a choice of health/hospital passports where you can document information relevant to you, three questions for better health and get ready to talk about your health.


Mental capacity and consent


Being unable to make a particular decision for yourself may mean you need support to do this, the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Some people are able to make every decision about their own lives. Some people are able to make some decisions. A small number of people cannot make any decisions.


When it comes to making choices about your hospital treatment, if the healthcare professional feels you do not currently have the capacity to give consent for that treatment they'll need to carefully consider what's in your best interests before making a decision. This is done by talking with you, your family or carers and any other people who may know you well.


Below is a link to the My Adult Still My Child website. It provides information for anyone caring for a person aged 16 or over who cannot make some decisions for themselves.


What is a learning disability?


Learning Disability includes the presence of a reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills, with a reduced ability to cope independently which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.


People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to learn new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. A learning disability may affect the way a person learns new things throughout their life and it is different for everyone. 


Mencap define learning disabilities as a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.


What is autism?


Autistic people experience the world in a different way to non-autistic peers and this may be most pronounced in the areas of communication, social interaction and sensory processing (Autistic Girls' Network, 2024).


Coming to RJAH 


At RJAH, we have a fully accessible Changing Places toilet. Details of which can be found here.


Here is a video filmed by our Paediatric Department which outlines the journey from ward to theatre from a child's perspective.

The video below was created to support patients with learning disabilities and autistic people; it outlines what to expect when visiting the hospital. Please note, it was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore some practices (e.g. donning a mask on entry to the hospital) no longer apply. Please bear with us whilst we create a more up-to-date resource and we'd like to express huge thanks to Jess for supporting us with this project.