Specialist Health Services

Children with special educational needs and disabilities will need support from different health services at different stages in their lives. 

Some children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities will have more complex needs and may need more specialist services.

Descriptions of some of these health professionals who may be involved in healthcare for children and young people with disabilities are shown below.

The Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) Service

The Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) Service works across the whole county of Bedfordshire and Luton providing help in both the community, i.e., health centres, schools, pre-schools, and hospital settings. The service treat children up to the age of 16 years (up to 19 years in special education), who have a difficulty with communication or swallowing.

The Service is provided in a number of ways, depending on need. This may include individual or group treatment, parent/carer workshops and training for education staff. They may see a child or young person, or their parents/carers, or linked education staff in a range of face-to-face settings, e.g., in a clinic, in schools / pre-schools, in hospital etc., or virtually via video appointment or online training.

More information can be found on the Speech and Language Service website


Paediatric physiotherapy is the treatment and care of babies, children and young people from birth to 19 years. Paediatric physiotherapists bring their specialist skills as physiotherapists and have additional expert knowledge and experience of child development and of childhood disabilities.

Paediatric Physiotherapy  - Bedford Hospital

Children Community Physiotherapy - Luton and Dunstable Hospital

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy aims to improve a person’s ability to do everyday tasks if they are currently having difficulties. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages and can look at all aspects of daily life in the home, school, or workplace.

The Luton and Bedfordshire Paediatric Occupational Therapist service support children and young people to engage and participate as fully as possible in childhood occupations (activities) such as:

  • Play
  • Eating
  • Self-care e.g. washing, cleaning your teeth, toileting
  • Dressing
  • School and life skills e.g. writing and alternatives to recording information and using scissors.
  • Managing at school e.g. getting around the class / school, supportive seating, specialist toilet seats
  • Hobbies and leisure activities

The service accepts referrals from GPs, health professionals, SENDCos, the early years support team and the sensory and communication team.  They do not accept self-referrals or parental referrals. 

Children's Occupational Therapy Service

The Children's Occupational Therapy Service can give you advice and information on moving and handling issues, seating at home, housing needs and provide assistive equipment and adaptations to overcome some of the difficulties.

The service is provided by Central Bedfordshire Council, and you can find out more information on the Children's Occupational Therapy Service page.

Special Needs School Nursing Service

The Special Needs School Nursing Service support children and young people aged 3-19 years old, with learning disabilities and associated additional health care needs within the special school setting.

The service is provided by a multi-skilled team of registered nurses and specialist nursery nurses. The team work in partnership with parents and carers, education teams, children’s community nurses, continuing care, social care and the wider multi-professional team to enable children and young people to access the curriculum.

Children’s Community Nursing Service

The Children’s Community Nursing Service provides a range of services to support children aged 0 – 16 years old (0 – 19 years old with special needs) who live within Bedfordshire and require skilled nursing support in their home.

The service is provided by a team of specialist trained children’s nurses with the appropriate knowledge, skills and expertise. The team support and provide specialist training for families to enable them to care for their sick child within their own home and promote high quality family centred care. The team can also support children and young people in attending school or nursery by training carers, where appropriate.

Referral is preferred from a health professional using the service referral form but the service is happy to discuss options to find the right place of care for a child’s clinical need with their parent/carer.

Community Paediatric Service

The Bedfordshire and Luton Community Paediatric Service is provided by teams led by Consultant Community Paediatricians who work in partnership with Community Children’s Nurses, Therapists and other agencies.

The service provides assessment, advice, signposting, diagnosis and medical support for children.

The team includes Clinical Nurse Specialists, an Early Intervention Team, CAMHS linkworkers and Support Workers.  We provide a variety of workshops for parents/carers that are held on line. 

Paediatric Nutrition & Dietetics Service

Paediatric Nutrition & Dietetics Service are a team of registered paediatric dietitians, specialising in nutrition for those aged 0-18 years across Luton and South Bedfordshire;  

  • Virtual (video or telephone) and face to face community clinics or home visits in special circumstances. Parent/Carer attendance at all appointments is compulsory.
  • Training updates and support on appropriate prescribing of nutritional supplements/specialist milk formula to GP practices and those working in children’s services.
  • Conduct GP audits to monitor local prescribing of paediatric oral nutritional supplements and specialist formulas
  • Involved in the development and review of local prescribing guidelines
  • Educational group sessions on particular conditions, such cow’s milk protein allergy and feeding difficulties.
  • Resources for the condition/issues discussed which can be accessed in a variety of ways
Children’s Continence Service

The Children’s Continence Service is for children and young people who have continued difficulties with continence issues such as but not limited to; constipation, day time wetting, night time wetting, who have already had support from the 0-19 team but need further assessment. 

The children’s continence clinic will see:

  • Children who are registered with a GP in Bedford, West Mid Beds or Ivel Valley with constipation, day/night time wetting which is not age appropriate.
  • Children aged 4 years and above with additional needs who are struggling with toilet training can be referred for further assessment. They will need to be registered at a GP in Bedfordshire or Luton. If they are struggling with constipation and/or soiling this must be treated prior to a referral being made.
Children's Community Eye Service

The Children’s Community Eye Service is provided by ophthalmologists, optometrists, and orthoptists who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions by medical and surgical means.

Orthoptists are allied health professionals who use non-surgical methods to diagnose and treat abnormalities of vision and co-ordination of eye movements in people of all ages.

Main services provided to residents of Bedfordshire and Luton in community clinics:

  • Specialist ophthalmic and orthoptic services for children and young adults in community clinics across Bedfordshire and Luton
  • Specialist clinics for children with special needs at the Child Development Centre and Special Schools across Bedfordshire and Luton
  • School vision screening in Reception classes across Bedfordshire and Luton
Community Dental Services

Community Dental Services is a ‘referral’ only dental service and patients are referred by High Street Dentists.  Most patients may be referred because they are unable to be treated in a General Dental Practice because of

  • learning difficulties
  • mental health issues
  • very severe dental anxiety, or
  • they need specialist or complex care.  

For children and young people with a learning disability, autism or both, there may be extra challenges such as sensory issues around having their teeth brushed, or the texture of toothpaste. Some children and young people may be unable to describe tooth pain.

Contact have created a parent’s guide to oral health and dental care for children with a learning disability, autism or both.

Some dentists may be able to treat children and young people with special needs in their surgery. However, some people may not be able to access their dental practise because of a disability or medication condition. In this case, the dentist should refer the patient to a more specialised dental service.


There are two hospitals in our area run by the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

Your child may be referred to a hospital with a specialist hospital or unit such as Great Ormond Street which is one of 30+ children’s hospitals in the UK.

If you need help and advice about your treatment in hospital, contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for the individual hospital.