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.

In memory of..

In recent months we have sadly lost some dear, dear friends.

We have created a tribute to share the special memories that we have of those we have been so privileged to know and who were such a big part of the Sunnybank community.

Rest in peace, Paul, Carol, Mandy, Anthony, David, Barbara, James and Marilyn x

If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, and would like some help, please visit the Mencap website for advice and guidance.

#BreakingBarriers to public transport

Many of us rely on public transport in our daily lives; to get to work, to visit family and friends, pick up groceries and visit the doctor. 

For anyone with a disability, travelling on public transport can present a number of barriers; sometimes these barriers mean it isn’t possible to use public transport at all. 

Being unable to use such important public services can really limit the quality of life for someone with a learning disability, particularly for those who live alone with limited support. 

During the pandemic, increased safety measures and operational changes to buses, trains and taxis have added additional barriers for an already isolated group to overcome.   

So how do we make public transport work for people with a learning disability? 

While key issues such as step-free access to buses, trains and stations and a lack of accessible toilets remain some of the biggest barriers that people with disabilities face when using public transport, a whole host of new barriers have become apparent since the pandemic began.  

For anyone unable who is unable to wear a face covering, the prospect of using public transport can be filled with anxiety. Many people who are unable to wear a face covering have a hidden disability and there is often fear of being challenged by fellow passengers. 

To avoid being challenged, it is advised that those unable to wear a face covering have a mask exemption card. There are many different exemption cards that can be downloaded or purchased online.

Below are links to the TFL (Transport for London) and Government exemption cards.

Print or download TFL exemption card

Print or download Government exemption card 

For those who find it difficult to maintain social distancing, the Government have created cards and badges that politely ask fellow passengers to be mindful and give you space.  

Find out more about ‘give me space’ cards and badges

Arriva Buses operate around the Epsom area and have created a poster explaining the new rules and how they will be keeping passengers safe. Before travelling on the bus, take a look so that you feel prepared and comfortable. 

View Arriva Buses poster

All bus operators in Epsom recognise the mask exemption cards so please remember to take yours with you. 

If you wish to communicate your support needs discreetly when travelling, the helping hand card is a useful way to let others know how they can support you.

All train operators and National Rail are signed up to the Sunflower Lanyard Scheme. If you have a hidden disability, please wear your sunflower lanyard. This will let staff know that you may like some additional support on your journey. 

Mask exemption and social distancing cards are also recognised on trains. Carrying these in your wallet or purse will mean that you won’t forget them!

Taxis and private hire cars require passengers to wear a face covering. It is recommended speaking to the taxi company in advance if you are unable to wear a face covering. Carry your exemption card with you too.

Some private taxis might prefer to receive payment online before a journey or via contactless card payment. Each company will have their own preferences, so please do call in advance so that there are no surprises.

If possible, always sit in the back, furthest away from the driver to keep to social distance guidelines. If you would prefer to sit in the front of the car, speak to the company or the driver in advance.

Visiting London can offer lots of great experiences, but it can be a difficult place to visit for some. Having a disability usually means planning journeys in advance to ensure any additional support needed is available – and with so many stations and routes, this can be particularly difficult in London.  

TFL have created a free app that features the fastest routes, quietest times to travel and stations with step free access. The app can be downloaded from Apple store. 

Find out more about the TFL GO app

Useful links 

At Sunnybank we are always looking for ways to improve the transport experience for our members, particularly in the short-term. There are so many fantastic charitable organisations who work tirelessly to break down those long-standing barriers that have prevented disabled people from using public transport for far too long. 

Here are some great examples: 

  • Transport for All – invaluable advice for disabled travellers across London
  • Changing Places – create accessible toilet facilities up and down the country making it possible for disabled people to travel with dignity

Are you a transport operator? 

We’d love to hear from you!

Support people with learning disabilities to use your services in a safe and inclusive way. Please share the steps you are taking to make your operations accessible for all.

#BreakingBarriers to shopping

For many of us, shopping is a part of everyday life, a necessity.

For someone with a learning disability, going to a shop can be an experience filled with anxiety, worry, confusion and fear.

Without realising it, many of our local shops are filled with barriers, preventing those with disabilities from accessing the most basic of services.

With the onset of lockdown, new safety measures and ever-changing guidelines, shopping has become a very difficult experience for people with learning disabilities.

Did you know?
According to research conducted by disability organisation, Purple:
-	the ‘purple pound’ is estimated to be £249 billion a year
-	more than half of survey respondents reported struggling to make purchases of a product/service due to their disability
-	56% of survey respondents agreed that improving staff understanding about different disabilities would encourage them to spend their disposable income 
-	75% of disabled people surveyed have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability

Will you support us in #BreakingBarriers?

At Sunnybank, we hope to use our experience to ease the anxiety of our members who feel prohibited from visiting shops, and to guide our local shops and businesses in the small steps they can take to break down these barriers and make their shops and store fronts inclusive for everyone.

Will you support us in #BreakingBarriers?
Here are five simple ways to help make your shop more inclusive
1.	Find out about the sunflower scheme - sunflower lanyards indicate that someone has a hidden disability and might need some additional support. Please ask anyone wearing one if they would like some assistance
2.	Have a sign on your window to say you support the Sunflower lanyard scheme and register on the hidden disabilities website
3.	Ensure your signage uses clear symbols instead of (or as well as) words  – not all customers are able to read
4.	Loud noise and music can make it difficult to concentrate and communicate, particularly when wearing face masks. Consider lowering music volume in store
5.	Share photos and videos online of the changes in your shop so people can see what it is like before they arrive, this will relieve a lot of anxiety and confusion

Who’s doing it well?

We are delighted to see that some of our local shops and businesses are already making great efforts to create a safe and welcoming environment for their disabled customers.

We’ll be sharing examples of local shops doing it well on our social media channels over the couple of weeks so please keep your eyes peeled.

Sunny Sessions to stay!

We are delighted to announce that our Sunny Sessions radio show has been funded for a further 12 months. Thank you to the Coronavirus Community Support Fund (distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund) for recognising the great work of the team and the benefits the show brings to the community. 

In March we launched our first Sunny Sessions radio show. Our aim was to help reduce isolation during lockdown and to communicate important issues to our local learning disability community. We hoped to keep people connected and uplifted while ensuring that all important Government guidelines were communicated in a way that was easy for our listeners to understand and access. 

Several months and many shows down the line, we have built up quite the following. The show has continued to grow each week and we have received lots of positive feedback from our listeners.  

We hope to continue connecting with our listeners, providing content especially for the learning disability community.  

If you are interested in being part of the twice weekly Sunny Sessions show, we are currently recruiting. Click here for more information.