Ciara, Ismail & Sarah

Sometimes in life you feel very disabled. Sometimes you don’t.  

It all depends on how people treat you – whether they talk to you with respect and as an adult, whether the things around you are accessible – and whether other people notice if is something is challenging and do their best to make it easier. If all those things happen, you can forget you have a learning disability and feel like everybody else.  

When the people around you treat you fairly, you feel you belong in the world - you feel comfortable to listen, confident to speak, and you feel more in control. When they don’t, you can feel very worthless and like you can’t do anything.  

The same things happen at the GP surgery. When things are accessible and you are treated with respect, you can feel very in control of your health. When things are not, you can feel confused and frustrated, and you might even miss out on the care you need.  

Making reasonable adjustments is one of the main ways you can make sure that people with a learning disability can access the care you provide.  

Reasonable adjustments might be things that a healthcare worker, like a doctor or nurse, can sort out on the day, like making sure they slow down, and use easy words.  

Some reasonable adjustments need planning for in advance, or a system to put them in place - like booking a longer appointment, letting someone see a person they know, or being ready to send out easy read information. Reasonable adjustments are everyone’s job, not just the doctors and nurses.

The small things you do might have big effects in the end. For example, some people get very anxious about waiting. If someone's already going to find communication a struggle, and you know waiting makes them feel worried, do what you can to make the wait shorter, to give them the best chance in their appointment.


For me, the main thing is communication.

 I know everyone at the GP surgery is really busy. But the hardest thing is if you feel like you’re being rushed. 

I need them to spend time with me, and to explain everything to me clearly without any jargon or medical words. One time I remember I asked for something to be explained and instead of explaining, the GP actually got up and opened the door for me to leave.  

It is not always easy for people with a learning disability to explain what is going on for us or to ask questions, and we need people to listen carefully. 

Sometimes I’m not sure people understand what I’m saying, or if they are really listening to me. It’s just as important for them to take the time to understand what I’m saying.


To make reasonable adjustments, the surgery need to know you need them.

A few years ago I found out my GP surgery didn’t know I had a learning disability – I got lost somehow, even though I went to a special needs school, I wasn’t on the learning disability register for a long time.

I asked to be added and initially they said no. I had to fight for it. They didn’t know I needed reasonable adjustments.  

Now I’m on the register, and the surgery have been great. I have needle phobia and need support with blood tests. So now, if I have a blood test they split my appointment in 2 halves. 

They put numbing cream on my skin and wrap it up. I go away for half an hour and then come back when my skin is numb. They can put the needle in and I don’t scream the house down!

When it’s time for my annual health check , I ask them to send me a reminder in the post, so I don’t forget. Small adjustments like that help people with a learning disability know what’s going on and make sure they can access the care they need.  

Top tips:  

  • Make sure you know who your patients with a learning disability are, get them on the register. We think the people most likely to be missing are people with a mild learning disability and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • Make sure you know what reasonable adjustments people need, get them logged on to the reasonable adjustment digital flag so everyone knows about them.
  • Make sure your team is ready to be able to talk to people about the things they are struggling with, and suggest ways to make it easier. A lot of people won’t be able to tell you what adjustments they need without your help. 
  • Make sure your surgery is ready to make the changes that people need – and that people know how to communicate with people with a learning disability in a way they can understand.