Hospital services for children and adults with SEND

Coming to hospital, whether planned or in an emergency, can be a worrying time.  

For children and people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), a hospital visit can be even more challenging, and may happen more often depending on the disability. 

This article covers information about the additional help and support your child or any person with a disability can expect if they have to visit a local hospital. You can find out about health services  on our SEND health webpage.  

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Help for children with SEND in hospital  

Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRHC) is based in the centre of Bristol and provides local hospital services for children under 16 who live in and around the city. The hospital has a dedicated Children's Emergency Department.

You will usually need a GP or community paediatrician referral to access hospital treatment, except in an emergency.

Where possible it is helpful to help your child prepare for visiting hospital. You could do this by:  

  • buying or borrowing Playmobil or Lego hospital sets  

  • reading stories about hospitals   

  • using picture books. Books Beyond Words have produced the following books about Going to hospital and Going to outpatients that you could purchase, or ask your local library if they could order  

  • making visual picture cards. Some schools have the option to print visual picture cards, or you can find examples by searching online    

Jigsaw is a group based in Thornbury with a monthly sensory library. Toys and resources are available for hire to help with preparing a child for hospital. You can find details about Jigsaw in our directory.   

You could contact the Children’s disability support team at the children's hospital. The team may be able to work with you and wards and departments to make any adjustments necessary for your child's care.  

Hospital Passport for children. Communicating your child’s needs is crucial in preparing them for their stay.  The Bristol Royal Hospital for Children (BRCH) have produced a ‘hospital passport’ that you can complete to help your child when they are going into hospital. It gives hospital staff information about your child’s needs, likes and dislikes. For planned visits it is recommended the passport is completed and sent to the BRHC at least five days before your child attends.   

The BRHC website has more information about the hospital passport for children.  

If you need to take your child to hospital because they have coronavirus (Covid-19), complete and take with them the NHS Covid-19 Grab and Go form

This should be used in conjunction with your hospital passport. 

Read the NHS Covid-19 Grab and Go guidance notes for advice on filling in the form.     

Moving from children’s hospital services to adult services   

The preparation for and transfer to adult services is called ‘transition’. If you are a young person that has a medical condition which means you need to attend hospital on a regular basis, your medical team will start talking to you when you are around 13 years old about taking more responsibility for managing your condition and making decisions.  

When you are aged between 16 and 18 your care will be transferred to the adult hospital services, or to your GP depending on your condition. University of Bristol Hospital has a transition website where you can find further information.   

You can also find further information on our article about planning for health transitions

Help for adults with SEND in local hospitals  

Hospital services for adults are delivered either by University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) or North Bristol Trust (NBT).  

The North Bristol Trust website has a visual guide to Southmead  and Cossham Hospitals that can help you get more familiar with them.  

If the person you care for is over 18, or you are an adult with a disability, you may want to think about some key things to consider telling the hospital, such as: 

  • the nature of your disability 

  • what extra support you need because of your disability 

  • any medication that you currently take  

When you enter the hospital a member of staff will usually complete the admission process with you and will ask you questions and record your details on a form. The admission form will record any needs which you may want the hospital to be aware of. It is intended to give hospital staff an idea of the support and help you may require. If your visit is planned, it is worth putting a list together of your needs ready to share when you are admitted.  

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust have produced an Easy Read document 'What might happen if an ambulance comes to help you?' which may be useful even for patients not in their area. There is also a video for people with autism or learning disabilities, which shows what to expect if they ever need to go to hospital in an emergency. 

Adults hospital passport: If you have a learning disability or Autism and you are attending a hospital service from UHBW you can contact their learning disabilities nurses liaison team for further support. UHBW also have an adults hospital passport that you can use.  

If you have learning disabilities and will be going to a NBT hospital you can contact their Learning Disability Liaison Nurses Team and complete their hospital passport.  

NHS has a helpful article on their website that explains all the things you should try and think about if you have a learning disability and will be going into hospital.   

If you need to go to hospital because you have coronavirus (Covid-19), complete and take with you the NHS Covid-19 Grab and Go form

This should be used in conjunction with the hospital passport. 

Read the NHS Covid-19 Grab and Go guidance notes for advice on filling in the form. 

Caring for someone while they are in hospital   

If you are a carer of someone who is going into hospital you can seek help from the Carers Support Centre which has a team of Hospital Carer Liaison Workers. They work at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Southmead Hospital and South Bristol Community Hospital. Details of how to contact them and what they do are available on the Carers support centre website.  

The Carers support centre also have information to help you if you are the carer and going into hospital yourself.