Appointment tips

5 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

There are simple things you can do to make it easier for your child to see their GP. It also helps to know what health services must do to make it easier for your disabled child to attend appointments.

In this article

Why it’s important to see the GP

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 using A&E in this way 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. This is particularly so 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:

“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.”

Hospital admission

If your child needs to go into 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 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.

Read our factsheet on making hospital visits more manageable, with tips on how to prepare your child, and resources to help make the visit go well.

Listen to our podcast episode on top tips for your child’s stay in hospitral.

Hospital passports

Some hospitals have their own hospital ‘passports’. This 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.

Download a hospital passport template on the Mencap website.

Your child’s right to reasonable adjustments

Health and care services are legally required to make “reasonable adjustments” or “accommodations” to make it easier for your disabled child to access appointments.

Reasonable adjustments are changes to the way a service is provided to make it more accessible to disabled people. See more about the requirement to make reasonable adjustments in the Equality Act 2010.

Publicly-funded health services must also follow the Accessible Information Standard (2016). This sets out how health services will ensure their information and communication is accessible to disabled people.