Learning disabilities and autism

There are a range of support and dedicated services for people with learning disabilities or autism, including:

A dedicated team at RCHT who provide 7-day support for children and adults with autism while in hospital

The acute liaison nursing service at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) is in place to ensure that the health needs of children, young people and adults, who are autistic or have a learning disability, are met within acute care services by working in partnership with all agencies.

‘Going to Hospital’ books and Makaton signage at RCHT

The service has recently launched a new ‘Going to hospital: Adult edition’ book. This follows the successful development of a children’s ‘Going to Hospital’ book.

'Going to hospital' and 'Going to hospital: Adult edition' book covers

This film, produced by RCHT in collaboration with disAbility Cornwall, explains about the new ‘Going to Hospital’ books and the introduction of Makaton signage at the hospital, which have been designed to support people with learning difficulties. 


You can find a range of information and resources, including a hospital passport which was introduced in 2021, to guide people with learning disability and autism and their carers to specialist support.

Supporting autistic people in times of crisis

The autism intensive support team, provide intensive support to adults with a formal diagnosis of autism living in Cornwall, who’s autism is so severe that they are experiencing autistic crisis placing them at imminent risk of a hospital admission, community placement breakdown or contact with the criminal justice system. This was set up in 2020 by the then NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and continues today.

Mental health services and support

Across NHS mental health services there is an advanced clinical practitioner who works across all clinical areas to advise, support and educate staff and teams about the needs and wellbeing of autistic people.

Adult social care

Cornwall Council work in partnership with individuals and their families, and understanding their perspectives forms the core of their social work practice. Specific information can be found on:

Significant regional investment

Plans to invest £40.5 million to improve care for individuals with a learning disability and autistic people were published in December 2023, which includes 2 new 10-bed units, in Bristol and Devon, designed specifically to care for individuals with a learning disability or autistic people who would benefit from being cared for in a very specialist setting.

This will go hand in hand with improvements to local care and support of individuals with a learning disability and autistic people so they can live healthier, happier lives in their local communities.

Page last reviewed: 28 February 2024

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