People with learning disabilities are still facing discriminatory healthcare while medical professionals lack training in meeting their needs, despite a string of inquiries into the issue in recent years.
A Mencap survey of over 1,000 professionals found 39% of doctors and 34% of nurses felt people with learning disabilities were discriminated against in the NHS, while 45% of doctors and a third of nurses had witnessed learning disabled people receiving poor care.
The findings come almost two years after the report of a government-commissioned inquiry into the issue by former NHS trust chief executive Jonathan Michael.
Michael found that despite the greater health problems they faced, people with learning disabilities found it much harder to access effective treatment and general health staff had very little knowledge about their needs.
This echoed the conclusions of a 2006 report by the Disability Rights Commission on health discrimination against the client group and Mencap’s 2007 Death by Indifference report, which cited six deaths that it attributed to discriminatory care.
Michael’s recommendations, accepted by government last January, included mandatory learning disability training for health staff, annual health checks for learning disabled people and action to ensure reasonable adjustments were made to ensure equal treatment, as required by law.
However, Mencap found that 35% of health professionals had not been trained to make reasonable adjustments for learning disabled patients while 68% of nurses and 53% of nurses needed specific guidelines in making adjustments.
Mencap used the results to launch a campaign, Getting It Right, to improve healthcare for learning disabled people, and has urged health bodies to sign up to a charter of good practice. This includes providing ongoing learning disability training for all staff and appointing specialist staff in hospitals and using health passports, which provide staff with information about learning disabled people to ensure appropriate treatment.
- On the back of Mencap’s research, Community Care has produced a feature looking at progress in the provision of healthcare for people with learning disabilities since the 2008 Michael report.