People with learning disabilities boost healthcare

Appointing people with learning disabilities as ‘health champions’ in NHS trusts is helping to improve the care they receive in acute hospitals.

That is the message from Sue Allen, who is the physiotherapy lead for Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the joint equality and diversity officer of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists for People with Learning Disabilities (ACPPLD).  

Health champions can draw on their experiences of being hospital inpatients to help staff improve provision for others, Ms Allen points out.

Successive reports have highlighted the fact that the needs of people with learning disabilities can be neglected when they are in hospital – often because staff don’t know how to communicate with them.

The Department of Health is due to publish its final report on the review of Winterbourne View Hospital for people with learning disabilities this month.

A number of former members of staff were jailed following an expose on the ill-treatment of patients at the hospital that was uncovered earlier this year by the BBC’s Panorama.

Meanwhile, NHS hospitals have been told they should improve the way in which details about patients with learning disabilities are recorded.

The message came last month from Improving Health and Lives: the Learning Disabilities Observatory, which was set up with support from the Department of Health in the wake of the Sir Jonathan’s Michael’s 2008 damning inquiry into the deaths of six people with learning disabilities in NHS hospitals.

A revamp of recording systems would be timely, says Ms Allen. ‘The codes used are outdated and offensive.

They should be updated to take into account all the changes in terminology and the challenges that people with learning disabilities face.’

In Scotland, the government has published a raft of responses from organisations and individuals on its consultation on the national policy for people with learning disabilities, The Same as You?


Ian A McMillan

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