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

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3 Healthcare

One reason Leah and Jimmy’s parents might be worried about their adult children is that healthcare for people with learning disabilities is often poor.

In recent years, there has been a series of official reports and investigations into healthcare for those with learning disabilities. The outcomes of the reports have revealed some positives, including:

  • Life expectancy has increased dramatically since c. 1950. Then, people with Downs Syndrome, like Bernie Lee from previous sessions, could not expect to live beyond their fifth birthday. Now 48% of people with Downs live to see their 50th birthday – and Bernie has far surpassed this, reaching 68 as of the time of writing (2019).
  • Many more children with severe and complex needs are reaching adulthood (Public Health England, 2016).
  • Free annual health checks with GPs have been offered to adults in England since 2008. Annual health checks have also been available in Wales since 2006 and in Northern Ireland since 2011.
  • Like other providers of services, GPs and hospitals are legally obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that people with learning disabilities get equal access to healthcare.

Despite these positives, there has also been heavy criticism of mainstream healthcare for those with learning disabilities. For example, the 2007 Mencap report Death by Indifference showed some people dying because of poor hospital care, while a government report in 2008 said some NHS care for those with learning disabilities was ‘appalling’. Then, in 2012, Mencap released another report, Death by Indifference: 74 deaths and counting, which concluded that standards were still not being met.

For a summary of the key reports into the inequalities in healthcare from 2001 onwards click on the link below (You should open the link in a new tab by holding down Ctrl (or Cmd on a Mac) when you click on the link.). Note this is optional and you will not be quizzed on the content in this link. You will review the conclusions and recommendations of the reports in the next section.

Link: Reports on inequalities in healthcare. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]