People with learning disabilities are a small proportion of the population; however evidence suggests they have greater health needs, in relation to hearing and visual disabilities, hypertension, chronic bronchitis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, gross obesity, spinal deformities, skin disorders and mental health.
Patient can often feel intimidated and often feel confused and may be happy to let their carer speak for them.
They might often see the Doctor or Nurse but leave the room without having communicated what the reason was for attending the Surgery. In addition to these problems many people with learning disabilities may not be able to understand written instruction which can cause them some distress.
Areas to be Considered
- Use clear short sentences
- Check the patient’s comprehension of the conversation by asking questions that will clarify that they have understood.
- Give clear information. It might be necessary to explain in more detail because of the patient’s level of understanding.
- If it helps the patient write instructions down.
- When asking the patient asks a question please give them time to reply.
- Direct the question at the patient rather than just to their Carer.
- Use good body language and eye contact at all times.
- Make them feel at ease.
- Do not rush them.
- Give them your full attention.
- Most of all give them time.
- Consider booking a longer appointment to give both the GP and the patient time to communicate.
- People with learning disabilities may become anxious in a crowded and noisy waiting room, so appointments booked at quieter times of the day might ease anxiety.
- Some people with learning disabilities may find it difficult while waiting for their appointment; this may be overcome by booking at the beginning of the appointment list.
- Continuity is important to people with learning disabilities – if they gel well with a certain Doctor or Nurse wherever possible please try to book them with that Doctor/Nurse.
- Always give an appointment card for their next appointment; please do not give it verbally.
Know Your Patients
A good receptionist will know her patients – and will understand the patients especially those with special needs. She will know exactly the needs of the patient and will endeavour to do her utmost to ensure that the patient has a good experience when coming to the Surgery and this begins at the front desk.