Mencap urges learning disability checks for mainstream NHS

NHS trusts should be measured on their performance in providing healthcare access to people with learning disabilities, a leading campaigner has said.

David Congdon, Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy, made the call after the Healthcare Commission unveiled its plan for assessing trusts in 2008-9 last week.

For the first time it has proposed indicators for specialist learning disability providers: on care planning, moving people out of NHS campus accommodation, delayed discharges and data quality on ethnicity.

Checks for mainstream NHS providers

But Congdon said he wanted the commission to also assess NHS hospital trusts and primary care trusts on how mainstream health services catered for people with learning disabilities.

He added: “In a way our greatest concerns are with mainstream services, whether that’s GPs or hospitals. What do trusts do when people can’t communicate?”

Congdon called on the current independent inquiry into healthcare for people with learning disabilities, which is due to report shortly, to “make sure that regulators play their role” in improving access to services.

The inquiry was commissioned by the Department of Health last year in response to Mencap’s Death by Indifference report, about six people with learning disabilities who allegedly died unnecessarily due to poor care.

Poor service

This followed a 2006 report by the Disability Rights Commission, Equal treatment: closing the gap, which found that despite greater than average physical health problems, people with learning disabilities often received a poor service.

Specific issues included having fewer health checks than other people for conditions including diabetes and stroke, and very low cervical and breast cancer screening rates.

The Healthcare Commission also announced last week it would carry out a study into the barriers faced by disabled people, including those with learning disabilities, to accessing health services.

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