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Learning disabilities

At UHNM, we want to make sure patients with learning disabilities are properly cared for and supported. ​​​​​​​​​We have created these pages to help us achieve this. If you spot anything we have missed or would like to suggest any improvements to this section, please contact our Acute Liaison Nurse:

Call 01782 675477 or 07712427679 ​

Use the 'related pages' menu to find out how we support patients.

Acute Liaison Nurse

An acute liaison nurse helps people with a learning disability get the best care possible. They do this by talking to the patients themselves and anyone involved in their care, like family, carers and medical staff.

The acute liaison nurse role falls into four main areas:

  • Training and education: making sure that hospital staff know how best to support people with a learning disability
  • Giving specialist advice about how to make 'reasonable adjustments' to acute care (small things which make a person's hospital stay better)
  • Helping staff make hospital services more accessible by developing and implementing pathways, resources and policies within the hospital
  • Supporting professionals in the care of a person with a learning disability and helping them work effectively with that person

​​​​​​​​​​This page is mostly aimed at professionals looking for extra information and resources about helping improve care for patients with learning disabilities, but carers may find some of the information useful too.​

​​What is a learning disability?

Recognising Learning Disabilities - poster

Information from MENCAP charity

Information from NHS England

Useful websites and accessible information

'Five steps of the accessible information standard'

Easy-read information on health conditions

Easy-read information on cancer (from diagnosis, treatment, symptoms and aftercare)

British Institute of Learning Disabilities – easy-read information

Local services

North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust – learning disability teams for Stoke On Trent and North Staffordshire

South Staffordshire learning disability teams – for South Staffordshire, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin

Assist – health advocacy

North Staffordshire Carers information page

Stoke On Trent learning disability social work team
Duty team number: 01782 234071

North Staffordshire learning disability social work team
Duty team number: 07976191085​

Communication resources

The Hospital Communication Book

Clear communication poster

Communication advice for health consultations

Guidance on reasonable adjustments

​​​'Reasonable Adjustment wheel'

Extensive information on how to make 'reasonable adjustments'

Advice on pain and distress

Help with your pain - easy-read care plan

Mental Capacity Assessments and Advice

Mental Capacity Act, 2005 - flash cards for advice

Information resources for family carers on the impact of the Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and people with a learning disability – useful information from Mencap

Useful documents, reports and national policy and research

Confidential Enquiry into the Premature Deaths of People with a L​earning Disability

The Learning Disability Mortality Review Programme (LeDer) – Annual Report 2016/17 

Factsheet on learning disabilities and dementia

Dignity in healthcare for people with a learning disability

The following information is addressed directly to patients, but it has been written with carers in mind too. If you are a carer, you may find the information on this page helpful and you may also want to have a look at the 'resources' page, which has more detailed information and links to helpful websites and support agencies.

Support when you're coming into hospital

There are different ways that we can support you when you come into hospital.

If there are things you need when you come, like information that is easier to understand, or a quiet room, please tell a member of hospital staff, or ask a friend, family member or carer to do this for you. This can be done if you are coming to stay overnight (you're going to be an 'inpatient') or if you are just coming for one appointment in the day (you are an 'outpatient').

If you're coming into hospital for surgery and you are very worried about this, we will try to arrange for you to come and visit us first, so you can have a chance to look around the hospital and get used to it. Hopefully, this will help you feel a bit less worried and make your time with us better.

If you come into hospital and forget to bring your hospital passport, please do not worry, as we have spare copies you can use. These are available under the 'Hospital Passport' section on this webpage (scroll down a bit further), or you can ask a staff member for a copy.


Easy-read outpatients appointment leaflets​

Easy-read outpatient appointment leaflet - County Hospital

Easy-read outpatient appointment leaflet - Royal Stoke​

Easy-read Questions to ask

EEG storyboard Neurophysiology outpatient appointment leaflet - Royal Stoke


This page contains more in-depth information about learning disabilities which professionals may find useful, including information on projects to help improve our services for those with learning disabilities.

First things first...what is a learning disability?

A learning disability can affect the way a person understands information and how they communicate with others. It can also affect how they function socially. 

It can be difficult for someone with a learning disability to:

  • Understand new and complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Cope independently 

A learning disability can be categorised as 'mild', 'moderate', 'severe' or 'profound'. The amount of support a person with a learning disability requires is dependent on how severe their disability is. Needs will vary from person to person.

Some people may have complex health needs, communication difficulties or require information that is easier for them to understand. The important thing to remember is to be person-centred in your approach and find out how best to support that person. At UHNM we are using the 'hospital passport', which can help with this.​

'Reasonable adjustments'

A 'reasonable adjustment' is when healthcare professionals make changes to how care is delivered for a person with a learning disability and complex needs, to make sure they get the healthcare they need. 

Reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement under the Equality Act, 2010. They are person-centred and may be different from person to person. Have a look at the 'reasonable adjustment wheel' and see what reasonable adjustments we can all make to help improve things for people with learning disabilities:

Reasonable Adjustment wheel​

Accessible information       

Accessible information is a term used to explain information which meets everyone's needs. Accessible information is sometimes called 'easy read' information.

Accessible information can be in many formats, but it normally consists of:

  • Simple wording
  • Pictures
  • Makaton or other sign language

Accessible information       

Accessible information is a term used to explain information which meets everyone's needs. Accessible information is sometimes called 'easy read' information.

Accessible information can be in many formats, but it normally consists of:

  • Simple wording
  • Pictures
  • Makaton or other sign language

Accessible information

Easy read information on health conditions

Easy read information on cancer. (From diagnosis, treatment, symptoms and aftercare)​

British Institute of Learning Disabilities – easy read information 

Health passports

Health passports make sure hospital staff know the best way to care for you. Click here to see what a Health passport looks like.

At the moment, there are many different types of hospital passport that we use. They may not all look exactly the same, but whichever one you bring is ok. Hospital passports are helpful documents which tell us important things about you, such as:

  • Your likes and dislikes
  • Any phobias or health anxieties you have
  • How you communicate
  • What is important to you
  • Who is involved in your care
  • Your current health conditions
  • What medication you may take
  • How you express pain
  • How you sleep
  • What helps you be safe

The hospital passport tells our staff what makes you feel safe and comfortable. If you are coming into hospital, you should bring your hospital passport with you, as this helps the doctors and nurses understand your needs better. If you are staying in hospital overnight, it should be put at the end of your bed so that everyone looking after you can read and understand it before they start to treat you.

It is important that this document is looked at by all staff involved in your care. Some people who may need to see it are:

  • Your doctor
  • The nurses
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • The person taking your X-Ray
  • Hospital Social worker ​

Ongoing projects

Projects to improve people's care experience include:

  • Maternity Training for all qualified midwives

Midwives are given training on how best to support women with a learning disability. This is jointly delivered by Kieran Uttley, the Acute Liaison Nurse and Liz Clarke, Lead Occupational Therapist for Learning Disabilities at Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.

  • The development of the Trust's new hospital passport

​​Hospital passports are helpful documents which tell us important things about patients. The hospital is working closely with Combined Healthcare and local services to develop something which is meaningful for people with a learning disability and carers locally and which will be recognised by hospital staff.

  • Developing a surgical pathway to help people with a learning disability when coming in for surgery

This is currently being looked at by many professionals, including doctors, nurses, learning disability nurses, carers and clients with a learning disability. The Acute Liaison Nurse is working closely with our surgical division to establish this. ​

  • Training, education and Learning Disability Champions

The Acute Liaison Nurse delivers training and education to staff members at Royal Stoke University Hospital to ensure patients get the right support and that staff feel able to meet their needs. Learning Disability Champions are nurses who have a special interest in learning disabilities and will receive extra training so that they are able to support their fellow professionals on the ward.  

  • ​Flagg and Tracking

This is an alert system which enables doctors and nurses to know that their patient has a learning disability and will help them make reasonable adjustments.​

Working with our partners

The Acute Liaison Nurse works very closely with local services, including North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare, The Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (previously SSOTP), local social services, day centres and charities.

We work closely with colleagues in other areas such as the Community Learning Disability Team and Social Services and the Acute Liaison Nurse supports these professionals when their patient comes into hospital.​