Enhancing healthcare access and support for people with a disability and their carers: Working together to improve hospital experiences

Ms Caitlin Wright1

1Bendigo Health


To develop resources and processes which support hospital presentations for people with a disability who have complex needs and behaviours

This service improvement project has utilised co-design principles with a focus on improving consumer experiences of the service. Two carer representatives participate in the project Advisory Group to monitor, guide and support the development of resources to support hospital access for people with a disability and complex behaviours, particularly those with Autism and/or Intellectual Disability.

The experiences and advice of carers has informed resource development and staff education regarding caring for patients with a disability and complex needs and behaviours. Key developments have included:
-The Hospital Passport, which details a person’s support needs so that hospital staff know more about the person’s background, abilities and how to approach care;
-Guidelines for assisting patients with a disability who present with complex needs and behaviours, including strategies for communication, environmental modification and managing distress;
-Photo libraries of hospital and dental services to assist with planning and preparation for admissions and appointments; and
-An educational video with carers detailing their perspectives and experiences in accessing healthcare services, which is used in staff training.

Significance of the findings to allied health:
The resources developed emphasise communication access and health equity, which is relevant to all Allied Health clinicians providing care to patients with disability. They also demonstrate the value in co-design and consumer participation for service improvement.


Caitlin has worked as a Speech Pathologist with Bendigo Health since 2011. She has worked in a range of clinical areas including acute services, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient rehabilitation,
transitional care, community services, paediatric outpatient services and residential care. Caitlin has a keen interest in quality improvement and started her role as a Project Officer with Research
and Innovation in 2016 with ‘Enhancing health services access a support for people with a disability and their carers’ project.