People with learning disabilities still face unacceptable inequalities in healthcare

Far more needs to be done across health and care services to improve the treatment that people with learning disabilities receive, care and support minister, Norman Lamb announced today.

Two new publications from the Department of Health, the responses to the confidential inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities and the Six Lives Progress Report on Healthcare for People with Learning Disabilities, show that people with learning disabilities are still experiencing poor care, and face unacceptable inequalities in health and social care.

In response, the DH has asked the national clinical director for learning disability to look at the feasibility of developing best practice guidelines for the treatment of people with learning disabilities.

Other recommendations in the report being looked at include:

  • making improvements in the way people with learning disabilities are identified in order to better respond to their needs;
  • aiming to have a known contact for people with multiple long-term conditions to coordinate their care, communicate with different professionals and be involved in care planning with the individual; and
  • looking at introducing patient-held records for all people with learning disabilities who have several health conditions.

Care and support minister, Norman Lamb said“It is not good enough that people with learning disabilities are at a greater risk of dying earlier due to poor healthcare.

“Good, high quality care should be expected for everyone. We wouldn’t accept this kind of poor care for cancer patients, so there is no reason why it is acceptable for people with learning disabilities.

“We are making progress on improving standards of care,  but we have to go further and keep driving forward our plans.”

The DH has also set out progress on improving healthcare in the second Six Lives Progress Report to the Ombudsmen. The report shows that more people with learning disabilities than ever before have taken up an annual health check which will help improve health and prevent any issues before they become a crisis.  This report also sets out priority areas for further progress including:

  • giving greater voice and power to people with learning disabilities and their local communities to develop services for everyone, including those in vulnerable or marginalised groups;
  • supporting the spread of personal health budgets for people with a learning disability with greater integration across health and social care;
  • ensuring that Health and Wellbeing Boards have information to help them understand the complex needs of people with learning disabilities; and
  • working with NHS England to make sure that the system continues to monitor and improve the health and care results of people with learning disabilities.

The department is working with Mencap and the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) to listen to people with learning disabilities and their family carers to see how best to make improvements.


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