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The Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation team at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust has recently rolled out a project to give extra support to patients attending healthcare appointments.

Inspired by a similar project run by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the team have created personalised care bags that will assist patients with learning disabilities, who find the appointments overwhelming.

The Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation team already offer strategies to support these patients, such as alternative environments to waiting areas and advising on coping mechanisms for those who find sensory stimulation challenging. However, the team wanted to help patients further and create a bag of tools that patients could have with them for any planned healthcare appointment or otherwise.

Corinne Nikolova, Clinical Service Manager for Wellbeing Services said: “When a person is given a care bag, it becomes theirs and they can use it for future appointments and admission.

“They could personalise it for visits such as adding hearing aid batteries if they need or a cup that they find easy to drink out of. The patient could also add their care passport, which is used to communicate what reasonable adjustments they require to be supported effectively in hospital.”

The care bags, funded by Sussex Community NHS Charity, the official charity for our Trust, contain items including a fidget toy, colouring book and crayons, stress ball, eye mask, ear defenders and sensory bracelet.

The team hope that the care bag will help make a visit to hospital a more pleasurable experience for the person with learning disabilities, ensuring that they are able to access the health care they need.

On receiving one of the bags, the carer of a young adult said: “I just wanted to say thank you again for letting me take the care bag away yesterday for my patient. She was delighted with it!”

A member of the Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation team, added “I was quite surprised by how emotional I felt seeing the bag; it is amazing how the simplest of things can make all the difference for the patient, and for the carer.”

The Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation team work with people with learning disabilities, the staff that care for them and carers to ensure they get the right support.

The project will see 500 bags dispersed between the Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation team to use with their patients, residents at Chailey and a small stock of bags will be given to our Urgent Treatments Centres and Minor Injuries Units.