Hospital first in UK to open vaccine clinic for people with disabilities
- Credit: JPUH
A Norfolk hospital has become the first in the UK to open a specialist Covid vaccination clinic for people with learning disabilities or autism.
The James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), in Gorleston, has unveiled an "accessible" facility for those with a disability, focused on creating an environment in which vulnerable patients feel completely comfortable.
Some should have received jabs several weeks ago, but have such severe phobias of needles they could not be vaccinated.
The clinic is the brainchild of Rebecca Crossley, a learning disability and autism liaison nurse at JPUH who identified the need for a bespoke service.
She and neuro nurses, Morag Wells and Linda Davis, have worked tirelessly to safely inoculate 90 people so far.
"When I had my jab, I had to fill in a form and go through a long list of questions," said Miss Crossley.
"I thought, if I had a disability, this would be hard. I put myself in my patients' shoes and started thinking about what we could do differently."
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Having been given the hospital's blessing to start a clinic, Miss Crossley hosted engagement events with carers to assess what kind of support might be needed.
The importance of avoiding a drawn-out process was evident, meaning forms and screening are completed in advance.
Preparation has also included asking how appointments can be made more enjoyable, leading to a whole host of fun for patients and staff.
"This week we had a game of football to make someone feel comfortable," added Miss Crossley "That is gold-standard reasonable adjustment.
"The room itself is non-clinical, and we've done drive-through vaccines so people who are really frightened can stop right outside the centre.
"Is it so important you get it right because, often, you only get one go. Someone with a learning disability might be so scared they cannot come back again."
As the clinic pioneers an innovative way to ultimately save lives, its flagbearers are overwhelmed by its success.
"Everybody we've had has been successfully vaccinated, and that is amazing considering some have not been able to have flu jabs," said Miss Crossley.
"Parents have been so grateful and some have burst into tears. They thought their children would never be vaccinated."
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