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16th December 2013

Be Part of the Solution

be part of the solutionImproving the quality and content of health plans for people with learning disabilities.

The Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities (CIPOLD) report in March 2013 provided worrying statistics on health inequality. People with learning disabilities die on average 13 years younger than the wider population. According to Mencap, 1,200 people with learning disabilities a year are dying because of inadequate health care. It has been suggested that 37% are not getting the healthcare they should. We should be outraged. We should be ashamed. We have been aware of this for many years but with all of the research, reports and White Papers, we are still falling short of taking effective action to address it.

Five key areas that make the difference

In 2011, The Learning Disabilities Observatory published their report on Health Inequalities for People with Learning Disabilities in the UK, which started to identify the determinants of inequality that could be amenable to intervention. In March 2013, The National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTI) with the Learning Disability Consultant Nurse Network published the Health Equalities Framework, describing the five determinants that expose people with learning disabilities to health inequalities.

These relate to social issues such as housing, poverty and unemployment. They cover the presence of physical conditions and genetic disorders, the impact of communication difficulties and lack of understanding of health and wellness. They consider personal health behaviour and lifestyle, and of course reference the many difficulties for people with learning disabilities in accessing health provision.

Check the indicators, identify the risks

The Framework proposes it is the different exposure to each determinant that predicts the way people with a learning disability will suffer health inequalities in comparison with the majority of the population. It provides a set of Health Inequality Indicators for each determinant which can identify the risks for an individual of missing out on the healthcare and lifestyle support they need.

Of course, the Framework is huge and full of jargon, in the way such ground breaking documents often are, but if we drill down it actually provides something useful to those of us at the coal face, to help reduce inequality for the people we support. For the first time, we are not just reading about the problem and wondering how and when it will be addressed. We can all utilise the excellent tools in this framework to inform individual health plans and support service users throughout their health care journey. Our responsibility is to ensure everyone we support has the right to good health for life.

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Ginny Tyler

Learning Disabilities Specialist

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