26 MAR

People with learning disabilities and autism have been able to get their life-saving COVID-19 vaccine at a number of expertly adapted sessions running in Leicester recently, as NHS organisations across the Midlands continue their work to ensure that everyone eligible takes-up their offer of the lifesaving vaccine.

There are over 60,000 people on the Learning Disability Register across the East and West Midlands.

The Learning Disability Register is held by family doctors to ensure that people with learning disabilities receive extra support and all-round better healthcare by ensuring that GPs and other healthcare professionals better document, understand and consider their needs at every interaction.

And while over two-thirds of those registered have already come forward to receive their vaccine, NHS organisations across the East and West Midlands are stepping-up their efforts to encourage those who have not yet come forward to do so.

Alison Tonge, the NHS England and NHS Improvement director responsible for overseeing the vaccination programme in the Midlands, said: “An amazing five million people have already come forward to receive at least their first dose of the vaccine here in the Midlands, as our region continues to lead the way as our NHS rolls out the largest vaccination programme in its history.

“And while the vast majority of everyone who is eligible to receive their vaccine has already come forward, NHS organisations across the region are working hard to ensure that no-one is left behind.

“We know that the pandemic has disproportionately affected many of the most vulnerable people in society, with those with learning disabilities and autism among some of those hardest hit.

“Adults with a learning disability on their GP’s learning disability register can have the Coronavirus vaccine now and I would encourage anyone who is eligible and has not yet received their vaccine to come forward to receive theirs.”

Recent Office of National Statistics (ONS) data showed that people with learning disabilities were over three-and-a-half times more likely than others to die from COVID-19

The impact that the pandemic has had on those people remains a focus for NHS organisations across the Midlands, with many finding a number of innovative ways to encourage people with a learning disability or autism to receive their vaccine.

Examples in the East Midlands alone include services being offered by their local GP surgeries and specially-adapted sessions at larger vaccination sites – including the sessions being offered at the Peepul Centre in Leicester.

Case study: How people with a learning disabilities and autism are accessing their vaccine in Leicester

Yesterday’s session at the Peepul Centre in Leicester is just one of a number of accessible and supportive appointments that have been offered by Leicestershire Partnership Trust’s specialist learning disabilities team, alongside its immunisations team.

The sessions, which are led by specialist nurses and support staff at the Orchardson Avenue venue, have been expertly adapted to make them as comfortable as possible for people with learning disabilities and autism to encourage them to come forward to receive their vaccine.

Each session is tailored to the individual, with longer-than-usual time slots allocated.

There are less bookings per hour to enable a calming environment and specialist learning disability nurses are also on hand to offer reassurance and distraction techniques. Their creativity has included singing flashmobs, visits from spiderman and private areas to help relax the patients.

Helen Thompson, director of Families, Young People, Children’s Services and Learning Disabilities at LPT, said: “I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to act quickly to welcome our patients with learning disabilities and autism to get their first COVID-19 vaccination in an environment which is relaxed and positive.

“Our amazing staff have worked really hard to ensure the appointments are calm, quiet and supportive. We had specialist nurses on hand to administer the vaccines and the appointments were longer than usual so patients received additional tailored support that didn’t feel rushed or uncomfortable.

“We know that providing these sessions will bring a huge sense of relief to many families and people in the community and we are delighted to have received wonderful feedback from patients who have already attended their appointment.”

How to book your COVID-19 vaccine

Anyone who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 can book their appointment using the NHS national booking service online at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

Anyone with a learning disability or autism and those who care for someone with a learning disability or autism can also call the 119 booking hotline or speak to their local GP direct.

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