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New passport designed to ease the journey in hospital

Gerard McWilliams

In May this year, the Public Health Agency, in partnership with the Regional General Hospital Forum for Learning Disabilities, Health and Social Care Trusts, people with a learning disability and their carers, launched a Hospital Passport for people with a learning disability. It’s designed to enable the patient to be independent and as involved as possible in any decisions about their care while in hospital. Gerard McWilliams visited two hospitals to see how the passport is being received by staff.

The Hospital Passport is a booklet in an easy-read format and only takes about 10 minutes to complete. I’d normally ask my support worker to help me, but on this occasion I got a work colleague to assist.

It covers short questions ranging from how you wish to communicate with staff, whether by them speaking more slowly and repeating instructions, using symbols and pictures or through a support worker, depending on how severe the learning disability is.

It also asks about any medication you’re currently on, any conditions or allergies you have, and what makes you feel safe and happy. My initial impression was that, at A4 size, it’s not that easy to carry around.

I visited three departments in two hospitals. My first visit was to a reception desk in the Outpatients’ Department in one of the hospitals.  

When I produced the passport the staff member was obviously confused and showed it to a colleague, who seemed equally baffled. So I asked them if they had heard of the Hospital Passport scheme and they said no.

They were joined by another staff member, who said they’d read about the passport on the Trust website, but added that they didn’t think there had been enough information about it.

When we started to discuss the passport itself, one staff member felt it could be smaller in size, while another remarked that, nine times out of 10, a person with a learning disability would be accompanied by their co- or support worker.

I pointed out that some people live in supported or independent living accommodation and may wish to go to the hospital on their own, so the passport would be helpful to them.

It also saves having to repeat the same information as you move through the various departments. The staff wondered if a similar system would be useful for mental ill health or other disabilities.

Next, I tried the A&E department in the same hospital. This time the person at the desk quickly handed back the passport and asked me to speak to the nurse in charge.

On my way, I met a student nurse, who said she knew exactly what the passport was as she’d been taught about it during her training.

She had a special interest in learning disability and said it was unlikely that other staff in the department would be familiar with the passport and how to use it.

At the second hospital I asked a few nurses if they knew about the Hospital Passport, but most didn’t. Only one nurse said she’d been given 30 minutes training on how to use it.

Although I only covered three areas in two different hospitals, I did feel that not enough information was being provided to Trust staff and that there should be clearer guidance and some training on how the passport system works.

For more information on the Hospital Passport visit

Have you used the Hospital Passport and, if so, did you find it useful?

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Alan Ritchie 24-Sep-2017 at 07:48 hrs

Great idea - provided it is kept up to date & everyone knows who has responsibility for this!

Our wee mans experience back in 2009 was horrific because meds were not accurately recorded, search 'hospital passport' on, its in the public domain


Shelly McAleer 23-Sep-2017 at 12:49 hrs

I use the passport and think it's very informative for the lady who uses it but as you say hospital havnt a clue.I also use a fast tracking card but once again I have to explain what it's for .


A Gamble 22-Sep-2017 at 21:48 hrs

I have never heard of the Hospital Passport.
I was involved a number of years ago in the design of a Patient Passport which was quite different. The Patient Passport was to be completed by the GP and patient about their end of life issues on how they wished to be treated. I do not know what happened to this Patient Passport as I, for one, thought Passport was entirely the wrong word to use as it implied going on a beautiful holiday. The initiative was masterminded by the Royal College of GPs and followed that used on the mainland.


Carle Blayney 22-Sep-2017 at 19:59 hrs

Great idea. I would ask who is responsible within the Trusts to teach the staff about the passports. Maybe the word 'passport' is misleading although this comment is probably too late. Congratulations to whoever is behind this worthwhile endeavour.


frances mc hugh 22-Sep-2017 at 19:04 hrs

i have not seen a hospital passport but think it should be invaluable to everyone concerned providing off course that the information is correct revalent and kept updated.