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More sensory clinics to transform vaccination experience for young people with learning disabilities and autism

A Covid vaccination clinic, aimed at helping young people with learning disabilities conquer their fear of needles, has been so successful that further sessions are now planned.

Sandra, whose son Brandon has a learning disability and autism, described as “amazing” the pilot sensory clinic, set up by the charity Wandsworth Share Community working with the NHS. She said: “After all these years of Brandon being terrified of needles and tests, this has worked. I am so thankful to Share and the NHS.

“Due to this wonderful clinic set up in soothing surroundings, he had his jab with no problems. I am so happy knowing he has protection. I am going to have [the jab] now too.”

Wandsworth GP, Dr Nicky Williams, led the clinic, accompanied by nurse Tor Godfrey and volunteer retired nurse, Caren Buchanan. According to Dr Williams: “We were so pleased to vaccinate over 30 young people and their parents at this special clinic in a soothing environment surrounded by virtual images. It definitely reduced any distress for everyone who came forward. We reassured everyone attending that they would hardly feel the jab and if it is done quickly it does not hurt. The vaccines are safe and over 30 million people in the UK have now had the vaccination.”

Annie McDowell, CEO of Share Community, said: “Our first sensory vaccination clinic was such a success we are planning to hold another one. For people with learning disabilities, the surroundings are so important to minimise any stress. Together with the NHS, we set up virtual projections with wonderful distractions such as swimming turtles and calm music. This was a very happy day for us.”

Naomi Good, patient engagement manager from South West London NHS, explained the background to the project: “I am just so proud to be part of this. From holding our engagement sessions online, an idea was sparked and our local GP, together with Share, made it a reality. This shows the power of listening and working together with our patients to make sure any barriers to healthcare access can be overcome. The power of the arts in healthcare is very important, can save lives and is something we hope to take forward following the pandemic.”

Anyone who is on their GP’s learning disability register is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Find out what the sensory clinic looked like and hear what people thought in this video.

Young people from Share Community also worked with the NHS on a video to reassure their fellow students in advance of the session. It includes a chance to meet Dr Nicky Williams and a walk through of the sensory clinic. Visit Share Community to watch the video.

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