A new book created in Cornwall is taking the fear out of hospital visits for people with learning disabilities and autism.

'Going to Hospital' uses Makaton signs and symbols to explain what will happen and who they will meet when they go to hospital.

The accessible book has proved so successful at reducing anxiety that it is to be rolled out throughout the country.

One parent said: "Having a copy of the 'Going to Hospital' book helped prepare our daughter for a planned dental procedure under general anaesthetic.

"She is a Makaton user, so being able to download all the signs and symbols we needed from one place was amazing.

"We used the now and next board throughout our hospital visit which reduced all of our anxiety and made the whole experience much less stressful.”

The book was developed by Jane Rees, manager of the learning disability and autism liaison team at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) and Angie Emrys-Jones, publications lead of Cornwall Down’s Syndrome Support Group (CDSSG).

Jane said: “From RCHT’s perspective, communication is one of the biggest obstacles patients with a learning disability face when coming to hospital, so we have developed a tool that patients, families and staff could use to try and break down these barriers.

"This book can be used prior to admissions or appointments to reduce anxiety and allow time to process what may happen when they attend and allow them to ask questions using the book in their own time.

"Makaton is such a fantastic communication aid, and if the health care staff can use the signs and symbols within the book to build relationships with the patients this can only be a positive move forward."

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The book was joint funded by Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity, Mencap and CDSSG.

Due to its success, it will soon be available nationwide for all NHS Trusts.

Angie said: “We are very excited about the potential reach and impact of this simple but so useful book and download that really will improve health outcomes for so many who are apprehensive about a hospital visit or procedure."

Cornwall patients not yet known to the learning disability nursing team at RCHT can request a copy directly for free and appointment letters will soon host a QR code of the book, so that it can be instantly downloaded directly onto a phone or device to be viewed at home.

The book is also available in digital format hosted on the RCHT website here.

‘Going to Hospital’ is the fifth book in the Looking Up Series, a collaboration between RCHT and the CDSSG charity.