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Adults with autism have their say on new hospital facilities

An illustration of two members of the public talking to a healthcare professional outside of a hospital building

The New Hospitals Programme is working with a range of voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise organisations, including Cloverleaf Advocacy (opens in new window), a charity that helps people with additional needs speak up about things that matter to them. It operates across the North of England and Cloverleaf in Lancashire is supporting adults with autism. Daniel Hall from Cloverleaf Lancashire talks about the needs of this group and what it can be like for people with autism when visiting hospital.

How is Cloverleaf supporting adults with autism?

Cloverleaf works with a variety of different groups to help them get their voices heard, find information and get the support they need. Our latest partnership with Lancashire County Council is to support local adults with autism. We’re helping them with a range of things including applying for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), running a buddying scheme, which enables members of the group to take public transport together, and speaking to them about how services can be improved.

We’ve had the opportunity to have conversations about the New Hospitals Programme and provide valuable feedback on their behalf.

How can new hospital facilities help adults with autism?

There are so many small details in older hospital facilities that sadly, make trips to hospital very difficult for people with autism. The spaces in hospital buildings are often too big, too bright and they echo. Sensory overload is very common in people with autism, and this is rarely considered in current hospital buildings. More private, quiet spaces, LED light bulbs that don’t buzz, lights that are dimmable and ideally, more natural light are all small details that will improve the hospital experience greatly for people with autism.

What else needs to be considered for this group of people?

The main concern amongst the group is the location of any potential new hospital facilities. Location can create a barrier in accessing services and facilities for autism. It’s widely recognised that some of our local hospitals aren’t at the standard that they could be, but they are close and that is a big consideration for people with autism.

If someone with autism needs an extended stay in hospital, they’re likely to need support from family and friends, particularly when it comes to communication. Patients with autism often have communication challenges and having a loved one close by to help is fundamental when people with autism are in hospital.

The group has appreciated the opportunity to give detailed feedback about the New Hospitals Programme, which it has done through interviews and questionnaires. Adults with autism can often feel side-lined and considered an addendum to adults with learning difficulties when, in fact, many adults with autism do not have learning difficulties. We look forward to learning more about the New Hospitals Programme and how the plans are taking shape.

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© 2021 Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme.