World Book Day

To mark World Book Day 2021, Sunny Sessions DJ Jon shares some of his favourite books and memories of reading with us.

Jon Andrews

I often find I can’t get into books and start a book then never return to it.

As a child I used to love Enid Blyton books such as The Secret Seven and The Famous Five. I loved how they were written and felt I was part of the adventure. 

One book that really sticks in my mind from secondary school is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D Taylor. This book was written in the late 70’s and is about the Apartheid (when people were segregated based on their race) in South Africa. The book tells the story of how white people were treated in a superior way to black people. It really opened my eyes to how a society judged its people and their value simply by the colour of their skin.

Thankfully we live in different times now, and value everyone equally regardless of race. The theme of the book has really stuck with me all these years later as I think its important to look to the past to learn lessons for the future.

We run two online book clubs each week for our members. Using the Books Beyond Words range, we use the pictures to make up our own stories.

If you would like to join our club, please get in touch by emailing

Say hello to Angela

Hi everyone, my name is Angela and I’m so pleased to have joined the Sunnybank Trust.

I am an Advocacy Administrator.

I work with Annie as part of the Advocacy team, which means I get to work with a fantastic group of volunteers and also members of the community who need some extra help and support.

Advocacy means giving a voice and I have quite a loud one myself! I am often shouting for my two dogs, Ruby and Blue to stop chewing or being naughty.

I used to work for the NSPCC, a children’s charity, where I gave assemblies to children about keeping safe from abuse. That also involved using my voice to empower children.

Now I’m learning a lot about Learning Disabilities and how sometimes people can miss out on making choices and getting what they are entitled to just because they have difficulty communicating or get overlooked.

I enjoy being around people, so like everyone I have found being in lockdown hard. I am really looking forward to being able to safely meet up with all the lovely people who are part of Sunnybank.

Thank you to everyone who has made me feel very welcome and I feel very excited about all the great work we can all do together.

Find out more about our Advocacy service here.

Random acts of kindness – top tips and ideas

Blog by Jovi Edwards, Choices Officer

Kindness is very important to us at Sunnybank. We try to be kind to others every day. Here are some simple ways to show kindness to others.

  • Hold the door open for someone, especially if they’re in a rush or have heavy bags
  • Help your friend carry their bags whilst out shopping
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Let someone go in front of you in a queue if they’re in a rush or have a disability and are wearing the Sunflower Lanyard
  • Donate your time to a charity (like Sunnybank or as Red Nose Day is coming up very soon, Comic Relief)
  • Give old clothes to a charity shop
  • Donate food to your local Foodbank
  • Do extra chores without being asked to by your parents/carers
  • SMILE!!!!
  • Give someone your seat on a crowded bus/train/tube (especially if they’re elderly, have a disability where they can’t stand in moving vehicles for long periods of time or are pregnant)
  • Give directions to someone who looks lost
  • Write a great review of a restaurant (that you went to either pre-COVID or during the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme) on either TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp or Facebook Reviews

My favourite online clubs

Blog written by Jovi Edwards, Choices Officer

A photo of Jovi looking at the camera wearing a pink jumper, pink hairband and glasses

What groups do I attend?

I like to attend as many of Sunnybank’s online activity groups as I can. My favourites are ‘Movies with Mates’ on Mondays, ‘Coffee & Chat’ on Tuesdays, ‘Drama Club’ on Thursdays and the Pub Quiz on Friday evenings. I also like to attend the monthly Swag disco and monthly Zoom party.

I also take part in a dance class which isn’t part of Sunnybank and is run by Malookoo Dance Fitness every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (and most Wednesdays when the Sunnybank Zoom party isn’t running).

What do I enjoy most about the online groups?

I like these groups because I get to see my friends, make new friends and they’re the activities I like doing in my free time anyway (watching Films, doing quizzes and dancing).

What do I find hard about attending the online groups?

Sometimes my Wi-Fi connection can be bad, sometimes other people can be frozen on my screen, sometimes people have loud noise (TV, their parents/carers talking loudly and even kettles boiling loudly) in the background and I can’t hear other people.

To find out more about the online activities at Sunnybank, visit our lockdown hub. Our activities are for adults with learning disabilities and are free to attend.

The Sensory Roadshow

Through the use of sensory lights, sounds and scents, care home residents with learning disabilities around North East Surrey have been enjoying an evening with a difference.

In partnership with volunteers Dick and Annette Emery, we have created a truly magical sensory garden experience, giving residents a wonderful experience to brighten up the dark evenings. There is no contact with residents making the sensory experience as covid safe as possible.

A sneak peek of the Roadshow in action

CEO of The Sunnybank Trust, Dorothy Watson commented: ‘We are very grateful to Annette and Dick. People with learning disabilities have been disproportionately affected and forgotten in this pandemic with many in lockdown since March. The Sensory Roadshow has been a fantastic way to reach those with complex needs and learning disabilities and to offer an evening of magic to reduce the high stress levels that many are experiencing’.

Those that have already had a visit from the Sensory Roadshow have described it as ‘fantastic’, ‘magical’ and ‘an evening to remember’.

If you would like to book a sensory experience for the residents of your care home this Winter, please get in touch:

The Sensory Roadshow is free of charge, however as a charity project, donations are gratefully received.

#BreakingBarriers in hospital

As Winter approaches, more of us suffer from seasonal illnesses such as the common cold and flu. But what happens when you become too poorly to stay at home and need to go to hospital? 

For most, being in hospital when poorly can offer a sense of relief – being in a safe pair of hands and getting the best possible care.  

For someone with a learning disability, being in hospital can be a very frightening and lonely experience. We commonly see hospital patients with learning disabilities who: 

  • don’t know why they are in hospital
  • haven’t had their treatment options explained to them 
  • are unable to communicate their needs to hospital staff 
  • have arrived at hospital without essential medications and health notes  
  • are staying in hospital without any personal belongings such as clothing or communication aids 

While these issues might heighten a patient’s discomfort in hospital, alarmingly they might also contribute to them not receiving the correct care and treatment. Something that can prove fatal in the most extreme cases. 

There are a number of things that we can do to ensure that the best possible care is given whenever we visit a hospital. 

Fill in your Hospital Passport

A Hospital Passport is a booklet that contains important information on existing health conditions and medications, communication preferences and limitations and other essential information.

A Hospital Passport should be taken to all appointments to assist medical staff. This Winter, our Sunnybank Advocacy team are working hard to ensure all of our members have a completed Hospital Passport. 

If you don’t already have one, or if you would like some help to fill yours in, please let us know and we will try to support you. 

Advocacy Manager Annie holds a Hospital Passport and a ‘Sunny Bag’

Pack a hospital bag

Although it’s unlikely that you will need to go to hospital, it’s always a good idea to have a bag of essential items ready to grab in an emergency. Your hospital bag should be kept in an easy to remember place and should include your Hospital Passport as well as things such as pyjamas, slippers, underwear, communication aids (e.g. glasses, hearing aids, picture cards), hand sanitiser, a charged mobile phone, things that you enjoy such as a puzzle book or colouring pens and some sweets. 

Having this bag ready means that you will have everything you need to make a hospital visit more comfortable.  

Many of our members have recently received a ‘Sunny bag’ from the Sunnybank Advocacy team, filled with some essentials to help begin packing a hospital bag.  

We’d love to hear your suggestions. What do you like to pack that makes your hospital visits more comfortable? Comment below and share your top tips. 

Ask for a Learning Disability Nurse

Most hospitals have specialist nurses who support patients with learning disabilities. 

Surrey Borders and Partnership have specialist learning disability nurses who work across Surrey’s five general hospitals to make sure people with a learning disability get the support they need when they visit hospital for an emergency or planned appointment. 

To discuss your needs with the SABP team, you can call them on 01372 202 100 (Monday to Friday) or 0300 5555 222 for out of hours. 

If you know in advance that you will be going to hospital, it is possible to ask your GP to arrange this for you. If not, your Hospital Passport will let the hospital staff know that you require this additional support. 


If you find yourself in hospital this winter and aren’t receiving the care you need, please let someone know; a nurse, a carer or a member of the Sunnybank Team. 

Remembrance Sunday

This year, to commemorate Remembrance Sunday, the Sunnybank Drama Group have recorded a special message to tell us all about the importance of the day.

Listen here:

#BreakingBarriers to accessing eye care

This week is National Eye Health week, a time to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health.

Adults with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to suffer from serious eye conditions than the general population. This means it is even more important for anyone with a learning disability to have regular eye checks and to take preventative steps to keep eyes healthy.

For anyone with complex medical issues, eye health is often overlooked. Regardless of general health, everyone should and can have access to regular eye checks. Eye checks are used to look at eye sight, and can also be helpful in diagnosing other health issues.

Should I have an eye check?

Yes. Everyone should have an eye test every two years with an optician (eye doctor). Some people with learning disabilities might need eye checks more often.

When booking an appointment with your local optician, let them know of any adjustments needed to support you during your appointment.

If you don’t already have an optician, the helpful link below shows opticians close to where you live, and the support they can offer to someone with a learning disability.

Find your nearest optician here.

What happens during an eye test?

Here is a video that explains what happens during an eye test.

Wearing glasses

After your eye test, you may be told that you need to wear glasses. Glasses will help you to see more clearly.

Here are some top tips for wearing glasses.

If you support someone who has been prescribed glasses, this factsheet gives practical advice on how to give support and detect any potential issues.

Spotting sight issues in others

If you support someone with a learning disability, it might not always be obvious if they are having problems with their sight or eye health. Things to look out for that might signal poor eye sight:

  • Holding objects close to their face
  • Unusual head movements or shaking their head from side to side
  • Dislike of bright light, low light or both
  • Increase in falls, trips or knocks to the body
  • Requiring more support when in new environments
  • Searching for objects with their hands or knocking over items
  • Changes to the eye e.g. redness, swelling or discharge

If you spot any of these signs, it is important to book an appointment with an optician.

I’m an optician. What support can I give patients with learning disabilities?

The most important thing to remember when examining a patient with learning disabilities is to explain what you are going to do in a clear and calm manner, making sure that they are comfortable before going ahead. You may need to use hand gestures or images to support your patient’s understanding.

RNIB have shared their top tips for optometrists treating patients with learning disabilities.

Difficult words explained

When talking about eye health, some difficult words might be used. Here we explain them:

  • Optician – eye doctor
  • Optometrist – another word for eye doctor
  • Vision – how well you can see
  • Cataract – when your eye looks a bit cloudy and your eye sight becomes blurry
  • Glaucoma – a disease that affects how well you can see
  • Long-sighted – when you find it hard to see things close to you
  • Short-sighted – when you find it hard to see things far away from you

#BreakingBarriers to accessing a GP

Two thirds of people with a learning disability felt that their GPs didn’t make reasonable adjustments for them according to a 2018 survey conducted by Dimensions.

For anyone with a learning disability, visiting a GP and accessing essential healthcare has been met with barrier after barrier. A lack of reasonable adjustments and clear communication has (in part) resulted in people with learning disabilities being five times more likely to end up in hospital to be treated for preventable issues that could have been treated by their GP.

(Dimensions 2018)

Our post-lockdown world, with rules and guidelines constantly changing, has created more confusion, fear and ultimately even more barriers for people with learning disabilities who need to access their GP.

We hope by sharing our experiences and knowledge that we can help break down these barriers and support everyone to use their GP service in a way that works for them.

I feel unwell. What should I do?

If you feel unwell, it is important to let someone know.

During the pandemic, we have been asked not to visit our GP surgeries, but to call on the telephone instead.

Keep the telephone number of your GP surgery in a safe place. When you call your GP surgery, the receptionist will schedule a telephone or video appointment for you with the GP.

If the GP would like to see you in person, it is important to wear a face covering (unless exempt) during your appointment. You might like to take someone you trust with you for support.

GPs can provide reasonable adjustments to make your visit more comfortable. These adjustments might include:

  • Giving you documents with large print
  • Giving you Easy Read information
  • Allowing you extra time with the doctor
  • Providing somewhere quiet to wait

If you require any reasonable adjustments during your appointment, let them know before your appointment if it is possible to do so.

Use this helpful form when visiting your GP to make sure you get what you need from your appointment.

What will be different about my appointment?

During the pandemic, there are a number of things that might be a bit different when visiting your GP.

Some things to expect might be:

  • Your appointment might be a phone or video call, instead of in the surgery
  • If you have been asked to attend the GP surgery for your appointment, you will be asked to wear a face covering (unless you are exempt)
  • You may be asked to wait in a different room than you’re used to until the doctor is ready to see you
  • You might have to wait outside the building until your appointment in some cases
  • You will be asked to sanitise your hands regularly
  • Your GP will wear a face covering during your appointment. If you are hard of hearing you can politely ask if the GP is able to remove the face covering or wear a shield instead

Each GP surgery will do things slightly differently. We recommend that you call in advance of your appointment to help you feel confident and comfortable with what to expect when you arrive.

I’ve been given a prescription. What now?

A prescription is a note to let the pharmacist know what medicine to give to you. Once you have your prescription, take it to a pharmacy/chemist. You might have to wait while they get your medicine ready.

If you are unsure about how to take your medicine, the pharmacist can explain this to you.

Wearing a sunflower lanyard is a good way to let the pharmacist that you might need some extra time or support in understanding.

Don’t forget to book your annual health check

If you have a learning disability, you can book free annual health check with your GP. You should do this every year. It’s a great opportunity for the GP to check that you are ok, and for you to speak about any worries you might have.

At your health check the doctor or nurse will check things like:

  • Your weight
  • Your eyes
  • Any medicine you take
  • If you are feeling happy or sad
  • What food you eat

Watch this video to find out more about what to expect at an annual health check

Read this helpful Easy Read guide to annual health checks

It is likely that the GP will want to check your blood pressure during your appointment. This video explains how your blood pressure will be taken.

Difficult words explained

There are lots of difficult words used by GPs, pharmacists and healthcare workers. Here we have explained some for you:

  • Acute – an illness that lasts a short time
  • Antibiotics – a medicine used to treat infections
  • Chronic – an illness that lasts a long time
  • Consultation – a different word for appointment
  • Contagious – if something is contagious it means it can be spread from one person to another
  • Diagnosis – when a doctor tells you what your illness is
  • Locum doctor – a visiting doctor. Sometimes your usual doctor isn’t available and you will have an appointment with a Locum doctor
  • Nutrition or Diet – what you eat
  • Prescription – a note to tell the pharmacist what medicine to give you
  • Vaccination/Immunisation – giving medicine to protect you from an illness using an injection (needle)

There are lots of words that might be difficult to understand. If your GP or pharmacist uses a difficult word, it is important to ask them to explain it in a different way so that you can understand.

I’m not sure if I need a GP. What should I do?

NHS 111

If you are unsure about what help you need, call 111 on the telephone for advice. If you are heard of hearing, you can call 18001 111 on a textphone.

Here is an Easy Read guide to tell you more about NHS 111.

If you prefer to hear a sound clip, click to hear more about NHS 111.


If it’s a real emergency and you are very worried about your own or someone else’s life, call 999 for an ambulance.

You can contact 999 by text message if you are deaf, have impaired hearing or have a speech impediment. Visit the emergencySMS website for more information or to register your phone.

I’m a healthcare professional. How can I best support patients with a learning disability?

It is important to give patients with a learning disability time to understand. This may mean a longer than average appointment is necessary. Speak using clear and straightforward language, avoiding jargon and metaphors.

Consider your body language, particularly when discussing feelings. Communication aids such as sign language or images may help your patient to understand.

This poster gives some good advice on clear  communication. Consider printing it out and sharing with colleagues.