Hospital passports, patient safety and person centred care: a review of documents currently used for people with intellectual disabilities in the United Kingdom

Ruth Northway, Stacey Rees, Michelle Davies, Sharon Williams

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Aims and objectives

To review hospital passports currently in use for people with intellectual disabilities in the UK and to make recommendations for practice.


Hospital passports have been introduced internationally to address communication barriers that may limit access to appropriate health care for people with intellectual disabilities. They are viewed as promoting patient safety and person-centred care but their format may vary, they are not always used appropriately, and hence, their effectiveness may be limited.


Qualitative content analysis.


Sixty hospital passports in use in the UK were reviewed against a coding frame by two members of the research team. Areas of interest included key patient and primary care information, support network details, consent and capacity, support required in relation to activities of daily living, length of the document and completion details. Results were entered into Excel.


Considerable variation was found between documents in terms of terminology, length and format. Most included information regarding communication and support needs although some omitted important information such as allergies, risk assessment and need for reasonable adjustments.


Considerable variation exists between current hospital passports, which may limit their effectiveness: key information required may not be included and/or it may not be easy to locate. Greater standardisation of documents is required, but this process should include input from all key stakeholders.

Relevance to clinical practice

Internationally nurses provide care for people with intellectual disabilities and others with communication difficulties. Hospital passports are one way of enhancing safety and person-centred care, need to be accessed and used as a basis for care planning. However, variation in format may limit this effectiveness and nurses should work with others to develop a more standardised approach, which better meets the needs of all stakeholders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14065
Pages (from-to)5160 - 5168
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number23-24
Early online date4 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • care needs
  • communication
  • content analysis
  • learning disabilities
  • patient safety


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