Individuals within the learning disability population are living longer, however, compared to the general population, life expectancy is considerably lower, explains Student NT editor, Rebecca Hammond.
CIPOLD (the Confidential Enquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities), reported that individuals with learning disabilities, on average, die 20 years earlier than the general population.
CIPOLD also found that 38% of people with learning disabilities die from avoidable causes compared to the general population.
In response to Winterbourne view, Mencap published their “Death by indifference: 74 deaths and counting” report which highlighted the consequences of health inequalities faced by individuals with learning disabilities.
Through the report’s publication, there was hope that lessons had been learned and that individuals with learning disabilities would be able to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives.
However, I can’t help but feel that this optimism has been suppressed due to the worryingly frequent reports of premature deaths within the learning disability population.
“General practitioners’ failure to identify individuals as having a learning disability is a contributing factor to experienced health inequalities”
It has made me question whether we are doing enough to protect vulnerable individuals and whether there is enough education of learning disabilities in practice.
Health inequalities are the differences between people or groups, who have different positions in society.
Individuals within the learning disability population are vulnerable to experiencing significant health inequalities, compared to the general population. This is partially due to the health problems and secondary disabilities which individuals with learning disabilities are prone to experiencing.
However, not all health inequalities experienced are due to underlying conditions but rather the way they are supported to overcome barriers to health and social care services.
General Practitioners’ failure to identify individuals as having a learning disability is a contributing factor to experienced health inequalities.
This can be put down to a variety of factors, including, the lack of patient record systems integrated with other NHS services and primary care, the deficiency in knowledge of learning disabilities and a lack of reasonable adjustments.
“having a person-centered and flexible approach in response to individual needs is essential”
Through the implementation of the “Equality Act 2010” health services have an obligation to consider the needs of individuals with learning disabilities, when organizing services and policies.
These are often referred to as “reasonable adjustments” and involves identifying that people with learning disabilities may have specific needs which standard services do not satisfactorily meet.
As professionals, having a person-centered and flexible approach in response to individual needs, is essential in ensuring that reasonable adjustments reduce health inequalities and increase the accessibility of services.
From easy read documents to clear and easy signposting. From extended appointment times to alternative appointment locations, these are only some of the “small” adjustments that can be made that have a big impact on the quality of care individuals with learning disabilities receive.