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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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3.1 The shortcomings of healthcare

The conclusions of the many reports into the shortcomings of healthcare for people with learning disabilities echo one another. Their findings include:

  • poor communication
  • failure to listen to and learn from family and others who know the person well
  • failure to adjust systems and communications methods to take account of poor literacy, lack of access to transport and other disadvantages experienced by people with learning disabilities
  • need for documentation, such as a health passport, to accompany the person as they encounter healthcare
  • need for more and improved training for all healthcare professionals.
Described image
Figure _unit7.3.1 Figure 4 Mencap’s Death by Indifference report (2007) showed that people with learning disabilities were dying early because of poor hospital care

Recommendations to deal with these now well recognised problems include the following measures:

  • introducing ‘health navigators’, people who have the job of helping someone with very complex needs to ‘navigate’ the health and care system
  • using liaison nurses in hospitals whose job it is to support other staff when treating someone with a learning disability
  • the use of health passports explaining the person’s health conditions, their likes and dislikes, and their preferred methods of communication
  • more and improved training for all healthcare professionals
  • involving the patient’s family/people who know them well in their care and treatment
  • making adjustments, such as longer appointment times, phone calls instead of letters, appointments at quiet times, etc. to suit the needs of people with learning disabilities.

Some of these ideas have been translated into legislation, known as ‘reasonable adjustments’, to promote equality of access.