As a film buff there are film quotes that succinctly sum up how you feel about a particular issue. The title of this blog (taken from the film Network) is how I feel about the health inequalities for people with learning disabilities
I have come to nursing later in life having worked with people with learning disabilities on and off over the past 20 years. I thought I had a handle on some of the issues but having received lectures on health inequalities I realised I know very little. I was astonished by my own lack of knowledge and it made me question just how many other health professionals knew about these inequalities.
“Valuing People signalled a fresh start for people with learning disabilities back in 2001 and with it came a real sense of optimism”
Valuing People signalled a fresh start for people with learning disabilities back in 2001 and with it came a real sense of optimism. But you only have to look at various reports and documents to read about the eye watering health inequalities.
For example, people with learning disabilities die on average 20 years younger than the general population.
People with Down’s Syndrome are at significant risk of dementia and onset is usually 30-40 years before the general population.
The prevalence of psychiatric disorders in children with learning disabilities is 36% compared to 8% in the general population.
The Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities which was published in 2013 found that 48% of the investigated deaths were either preventable or amendable or both. How can we not be angry about this?
”People with learning disabilities have been neglected for far too long and it is important that every health care professional has a role to play in challenging poor practice and care”
All nurses, not just learning disability nurses, will have learning disabled patients at some point in their career and everyone needs to be aware of these health inequalities to ensure the best quality care is available.
Whilst the events at Winterbourne View were rightly exposed, people with learning disabilities have been neglected for far too long and it is important that every health care professional has a role to play in challenging poor practice and care whether they specialise in learning disability or not.
”Perhaps the greatest skill I can develop as a student nurse is to support everyone I come into contact with to become an advocate as well”
I feel as a learning disability nurse, I will have specialist skills in supporting and empowering people those with learning disabilities, but perhaps the greatest skill I can develop as a student nurse is to support everyone I come into contact with, be it other nurses, doctors or allied health professionals to become an advocate as well, rather like in the film Pay it Forward.
If I can help others to become advocates, who then help others to become advocates, then eventually those health inequalities that get me so mad might become a thing of the past.
Justin Gollan is a current learning disability student nurse