Planning your child’s transition to adult health services

The way that children with complex health needs or long-term conditions receive their health support changes when they become adults.  

This also applies to children with developmental delays, learning disabilities and mental health concerns.

It’s important that the transition between child and adult health services starts early and that professionals, parents and young people are all involved. Usually, when your child turns 18, all their health needs may be handed back to your GP.

You can also read and download our health transitioning planning guide.

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Good practice in transition planning

Transition is a process that should start when your child is a teenager. Health professionals involved in your child’s care should know what needs to happen to transition your child successfully into adult services.

Here are examples of good practice:

  • your child’s GP (doctor) is involved early in planning their transition

  • if you child has a Community Paediatrician you will be encouraged to start seeing your GP from the age of 14 so you and your GP can find the best way to support your child  in primary care - the care from the acute and community paediatricians can be provided until the age of 18

  • your child should be given information on how to look after themselves to keep healthy

  • agencies in social care, education and health should work together to make a plan that promotes good outcomes

  • health services should be transparent and health care should continue throughout transition

  • every young person over 14 with high health needs should have a named professional that oversees their transition to adult health services

The Together for Short Lives website has a transition checklist if your child is seriously ill.

When and how to plan for preparing for adulthood

Your child will have a lot of information written about their health needs. They may also have a health care plan developed by their school or health service. This information is important as your child prepares to move into adult life.

Transition planning in health should start early, preferably before your child reaches 14. Your child should be central to the transition process. They should be able to make their own decisions on keeping good health.

You and your child should be able to ask questions, give opinions and make decisions. This should be respected by health, education and social care staff.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website has an overview of transition between services.

You may find this transitions health checklist helpful to use. It helps you to think about the health services and what planning needs to happen to ensure a smooth handover to adult services. 

Healthcare plans

Young people can have health care needs due to a range of medical conditions and disabilities such as:

  • physical disabilities
  • learning difficulties or disabilities
  • behavioural disabilities
  • lifelong developmental disabilities
  • mental health difficulties
  • life limiting conditions

Healthcare plans need to be person centred, meaning that they are specific to your child and their health needs. They should detail the health support your child needs in all settings.

Your child’s healthcare plan should show how they receive health support. It should name the professionals who will plan their transfer from child to adult services. Many health care plans may need several specialist staff to be involved.

It should also include who will be responsible for their health care support when they are an adult.

If your child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), their health care should be detailed as part of this. 

If your child does not have an EHCP, their needs should be recorded as part of transition planning.

Read this article on Education, Health and Care plans.

Young people over the age of 14 with a learning disability may be entitled to a free annual NHS health check.  You can read more information in our Annual NHS Health Checks article.

Transition to mainstream health services

Your child may have a Community Paediatrician or a consultant. When your child becomes 18, the health care for your child normally reverts back to your GP. 

Your GP may not know a lot about your child so it is important that:

  • for children with complex needs, your child’s Paediatrician or specialist service are involved in the transition planning
  • any possible gap between adult and child services should be discussed by these professionals
  • your GP is involved in your child’s health planning
  • medication is discussed

Good transition planning is also helped by having a key health lead who can ensure that:

  • your child’s health needs are recorded in their health plan
  • the plan is written into your child’s education, health and care plan (EHCP) if they have one
  • the plan is included in any health action plan or health hospital passport.

Support for people with learning disabilities and autism in hospital

The Learning Disabilities Liaison Nursing Team from the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) can help give support to adults aged 18 who have a learning disability or autistic spectrum condition (ASC). They can also support patients aged 16 and over as part of a transitions pathway.

The UHBW website has details on the Learning Disabilities Liaison Nursing Team.

For adults, The Bristol Autism Support Service (BASS) will assess and diagnose people who are referred by their GP but can also provide post-diagnostic support, advice and training.

The Sirona health and care website has information on the South Gloucestershire Community Learning Disability Team and how they support young people at hospital.

The Community Learning Disabilities Team (CLDT) for adults is part of the Sirona care and health NHS services.  The locality of your GP will depend on which CLDT will be contacted.  A new referral form which will be used across the South Gloucestershire and Bristol areas can be downloaded, send your completed form to

Continuing health care for adults

There will be more people involved in your child’s transition if they are receiving continuing care as a child. This will also apply if their needs are so complex they may receive continuing healthcare as an adult.

It is important to know who is responsible for such things as making referrals and paying for support.

The ICB website has more information on NHS continuing health care for adults.