Innovative care bags transform hospital experience for sensory needs patients

Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH) is transforming the hospital experience for patients with sensory needs with its new, innovative care bag initiative.

Launched to support patients in the emergency department (ED) and admission units, this initiative is designed to offer comfort and reduce stress for people with autism and/or learning disabilities.

Patients with sensory needs often find the bustling and noisy environment of an ED overwhelming. Recognising this challenge, WUTH has introduced a special sensory care bag to enhance their hospital experience.

These bags include items such as noise-cancelling earphones, an eye mask, a sensory chew bracelet, and a colouring book with pencils. Each bag also contains an easy-read patient information leaflet and a feedback form to gather insights for continuous improvement. Additionally, a health and wellbeing passport is included to provide staff with crucial information about the patient’s needs, ensuring tailored care.

The sensory care bag initiative is the creation of Helen Newell, named nurse for safeguarding adults and the Trust’s lead for complex care. Helen collaborated closely with Autism Together, Mencap, and Healthwatch Wirral to develop this idea. The initiative was launched during Learning Disability Week, with the new bags distributed to ED and other admission unit staff, ready to assist patients when needed.

Helen Newell said, “The feedback from staff has been wonderful. It’s incredible how such a simple idea can have a hugely positive impact on someone’s healthcare experience. It’s rewarding to see the difference these items are starting to make.” The bags are especially useful for patients who arrive unexpectedly and do not have their own coping items.

Janelle Holmes, Chief Executive of WUTH, added, “As a Trust, we always encourage new ideas from staff to improve patient care. The sensory care bags are a perfect example. Patients with sensory needs can find environments like the ED overwhelming, and there’s already evidence that these items are significantly helping.”

Clinical staff have reported that the bags are reducing patient anxiety, positively impacting their ability to diagnose and treat patients with autism and/or learning disabilities.

This initiative also allows staff to document information about patients needing extra support from the complex care team during their hospital stay. Staff can flag digital health records for patients receiving a bag, ensuring additional measures are in place where needed.

Image: Helen Newell, named nurse for safeguarding adults at WUTH (pictured centre) handing over a sensory care bag on the acute medical unit to Laura Bacur, deputy ward manager (right) and Jacqueline Holmes, registered nurse (left)

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