Sensory room transforms vaccination experience for young people

28th January 2022

A relaxing, dedicated space has been created at the King’s Park vaccination centre in Boscombe for young people with learning disabilities or severe and long-term mental health conditions.

The new sensory room is for those aged 5-15 to use before and during their COVID-19 vaccination to help them keep calm. It avoids them having to utilise a communal waiting area that may be noisy or cause anxiety.

Working in partnership, Dorset HealthCare staff and Community Action Network (CAN) volunteers and staff created the room in two days, making it the first vaccination site in the South of England to have this type of dedicated space.

It features colour- and brightness-adjustable LED lights, a machine that plays soft calming sounds, an aromatherapy diffuser and a bubble light with floating fish that bob up and down to create a calming atmosphere. There are also bean bags, a crash mat and wipeable sensory toys.

Lisa Midgley, Dorset HealthCare’s COVID Nursing Manager, said:

“During the last year and a half, we have become more aware that there are a large number of young people who have been unable to receive their COVID vaccine for a variety of reasons. 

“As part of the schools COVID programme, we realised that we needed to be able to offer a service to parents who have children with a learning disability or mental health condition, who may struggle with anxiety or have sensory issues. 

“This new sensory room will ensure young people who may struggle in the usual clinic setting can now get vaccinated, and we will accommodate each young person to suit their needs. We hope this encourages more people to visit the King’s Park site to get protected.”

“We are very thankful to CAN and its volunteers for making this possible.”

Liz Soffe, Community Action Network’s Volunteer Coordinator, added:

“When our Dorset HealthCare colleagues asked us if we could create this room, we swung into action and starting fundraising. We received donations from Public Health Dorset’s Health Protection Board, along with some local donors plus Brewers Decorating Centres gave us the paint to make it happen. Our staff and volunteers gave up their weekend to get stuck in and we’ve ended up with a brilliant calm and welcoming space.”

So far more than 50 young people have used the room, and the feedback has been very positive. One parent said:

“The sensory room made such a difference to my son Ethan, who is 13. The calm friendly area allowed him to listen to what was about to happen during his vaccination, without any distractions, to get comfortable and to feel relaxed.

“It allowed him to feel in control of what was happening to him and gave him the positive experience that was needed for future immunisations and treatments.”

Parents and carers can book the sensory room and a vaccination appointment for a young person with additional needs by contacting the School COVID Team via or calling 07552 007714.

Each enquiry will be replied to individually, looking at the young person’s requirements. A pre-screening conversation with parents or carers is also an option prior to the vaccination visit. 

The dedicated space is also available for other patients who visit the King’s Park vaccination centre and are feeling highly anxious or nervous about getting their vaccination.

A short clip of the sensory room and feedback from parents can be seen below.

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