An innovative free resource to assist hospital staff working with patients with autism is being launched by Baroness Angela Browning and the National Autistic Society (NAS), the UK's leading charity for people affected by the lifelong developmental disability.
Autism affects around 700,000 people in the UK and impacts how a person communicates with others and relates to the world around them. As a result, a visit to the unfamiliar environment of a hospital can be an incredibly challenging and distressing experience for someone with the condition.
The autism hospital passport aims to change this. Backed by the Department of Health and NHS England, the passport is a short booklet designed to accompany the general notes that medical professionals refer to when treating a patient. The passport contains personalised information about an individual and further essential information about the condition to help people with autism to communicate their needs to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
NAS Vice President Baroness Angela Browning worked with the charity, medical professionals, people with autism and their families and carers, to create the passport for people with autism to complete and use when they are admitted to hospital for routine or emergency treatment.
Leo Capella has Asperger syndrome and was involved in the development of the passport. Leo said:
"I believe that the autism passport has the potential to help a lot of people on the autistic spectrum be treated with respect and accuracy in hospital. The passport provides the right combination of personal information and wider information about autism, including our right to be treated as having capacity until proved otherwise.
"I am glad that a resource like this is in my corner."
Baroness Angela Browning, a National Autistic Society Vice President, said:
"This important resource will make a real difference to people with autism. We can all find it difficult to communicate well with doctors, nurses and other professionals at times when we feel vulnerable and confused. But these difficulties may be magnified for people with autism, many of whom can find even day-to-day activities such as shopping or using public transport overwhelming. Their specific social and communication needs may not always be identified correctly in a busy hospital setting.
"There is emerging evidence that people with autism have poorer health outcomes than the general population, so it is vitally important that their use of health services is made as straight-forward as possible. The hospital passport contains essential and useful information for professionals about the particular needs of a patient with autism, to make that patient's stay more safe and comfortable, and to ensure communication is maintained and the incidence of distress or misunderstanding is reduced."
The autism hospital passport was launched by Baroness Angela Browning, Norman Lamb MP, Minister for Care and Support, and Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, at an event at the Royal College of Physicians on Thursday 17 July.
People with autism, their families and carers and medical professionals can access a passport by visiting www.autism.org.uk/hospital-passport