Appointment tips

It can be difficult for disabled children to visit their GP. If your child finds it difficult to wait or is anxious about going to new places, taking them to the doctor can be an extremely stressful experience for you and your child.

Many parents say they find it easier to take their child to A&E instead, but inappropriate use of A&E is unlikely to be the best option. For example, the doctors at A&E will not be familiar with your child's medical history - nor will they have access to their medical record. If your GP misses opportunities to get to know your child, it is harder for them to stay informed about their needs, particularly if your child moves to adult services and the GP becomes the lead professional coordinating care.

Tips for going to the GP

Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to make it easier for your child to see their GP. Here are some tips that other parents have found useful in this situation:

  • Try to get appointment times at the start of clinics when there is likely to be less of a wait.
  • If your child does not like to be in crowds of people, explain the problem to the receptionist and ask if there is a quieter room you can wait in.
  • Write on a postcard what might be difficult for your child and give it to the receptionist, so you do not have to say it out loud for others to hear.
  • If possible, try to get appointments with the same doctor/health professional on subsequent visits, so they get to know your child's additional needs and you do not have to keep repeating your story.

    "The staff are always aware that she won't wait in the waiting area long and are very good at keeping me informed of locum doctors and nursing staff to help prepare her for the visit."

  • Ask the receptionist to let you know if there is going to be a long wait, so you can take your child for a walk and come back later.
  • Ask if you can wait in the car outside and be called on your mobile when the doctor is nearly ready to see you.
  • Before they examine your child, explain to the doctor what might stress your child or trigger behaviour.
  • Ask your doctor if they offer double appointment times so there is more time to talk about what's been happening since your child was last seen.

Hospital admission

If your child is to be admitted to hospital, telephone ahead to let them know your child has additional needs.

Ask for a pre-admission meeting with a senior nurse on the ward where your child will stay to discuss your child's additional support needs. If your child has a learning disability, ask if the hospital has a learning disability nurse and try to speak to them as well. They can be very helpful in liaising with hospital staff to make sure the stay is less stressful for your child.

Write down all the things that your child might find particularly stressful and how they are likely to respond. Take this with you. It is also useful to take this with you if your child has to go to hospital in an emergency.

Some hospitals have their own hospital 'passports', which can include information about your child's needs, what treatments they're receiving and from which different professionals. The passport is also useful in explaining what might upset your child, how they express themselves, routines they follow and how to tell if they're in pain. You can bring this to GP or hospital appointments.

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