Hundreds of children have learning disabilities and autism in Somerset and now families are being asked to help shape local NHS services supporting them.

More than 1,600 children are recorded as living with moderate to severe learning disabilities in Somerset and over 650 schoolchildren have autism, according to NHS figures.

And now local families are being sought to share their views on the NHS services supporting those with learning disabilities and autism in Somerset.

Independent health and care champion Healthwatch Somerset has launched What would you do? to encourage people in the county to share their views about what changes to local NHS services should look like.

The Government has developed a ten year plan for the NHS covering the whole of England.  Local organisations have now been asked to work out what changes will be made to ensure the NHS is better for people in the area.

The NHS Long Term Plan outlines how the NHS will support people with a learning disability or autism to live healthier, happier lives.  Areas of focus include more investment in training, undergraduate degree places, supported internships to provide better employment opportunities.

The NHS also wants services to be more accessible for people with a learning disability or autism.  This will start in specialist schools, where the NHS will run hearing, sight and dental checks, that might have been hard to access in other community settings.  Later in life, people will also be offered annual check-ups and wellbeing services, such as support in quitting smoking.

It’s also proposed to allocate a key support worker to every child and young person with a learning disability or autism by 2024.  This will be supported by all patients having more detailed records, with a ‘digital flag’ highlighting their learning disability or autism to NHS staff.

Emily Taylor, Healthwatch Somerset Manager, said: “There’s a significant number of children in local schools with learning disabilities and autism.

“We want to know how the NHS can help improve the support and services it provides to these children and their families.  We want to hear from parents, relatives, carers, community groups or people of any age about their own personal experiences and find out what could be improved.

“No matter how big or small the issue, we want to hear about it.  Sharing your experience with us is quick and easy – and could make a big difference.”

Healthwatch Somerset is also keen to hear from people about a range of other health services which support people with conditions such as mental health, cancer, heart and lung disease and dementia.  People can also have their say on how the NHS can help people live healthier lives through prevention and how people can take more control over their health.

People can share their views in an online survey (closed 30 April 2019)

Representatives from the local NHS will also be carrying out engagement work with patients, staff and the community to encourage feedback on the local plan.

For more details on What Would You Do? visit: www.healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/project/nhs-long-term-plan/

*NHS figures taken from Public Health England data: www.fingertips.phe.org.uk