Theresa May this week announced plans to invest heavily in artificial intelligence to assist in the early diagnosis of cancer. Bravo. We all agree that this is a good thing.
Fewer column inches were given to last week’s news that people with learning disabilities die a couple of decades earlier than their non-learning disabled counterparts – and from generally preventable causes. In fact, if you have a learning disability, you’ve a 28% chance of not reaching your 50th birthday – compared to 5% in the general population. The difference is a national disgrace.
Supporting people with learning disabilities in primary care
Dimensions’ #MyGPandMe campaign has been created to spotlight one part of the issue. We think it is unfair that people with learning disabilities are five times more likely to end up in hospital for preventable issues that can be treated by their GP. So we surveyed people with learning disabilities and autism, those that support them, and GPs. Together, #MyGPandMe paints a picture of exclusion, of poor experiences of primary healthcare, and of a GP profession that acknowledges the issues and which has simply not received any training in how best to support people with learning disabilities with their health.
Amongst other things, we found:
- Two thirds of GPs told us they have received less than a day’s training on how to meet the needs of patients with learning disabilities or autism. 98% said they would find training beneficial.
- People with learning disabilities or autism are 30% less likely to feel listened to by the GP
- Almost a third of people feel less likely to be treated with care and concern
- 60% of people said their GP did not make reasonable adjustments for them
- 55% of GPs identified communication issues between patients, support workers and GPs as an obstacle
- Just half of people felt they were involved in decisions about their healthcare.
Scaling best practice
Amid this, we heard of many fabulous stories of great primary healthcare provision. There’s no doubt that many practices are delivering outstanding, personalised care to individuals. The challenge is to get this best practice replicated in tens of thousands of surgeries nationally.
The #MyGPandMe research isolated a number of particular health issues to focus on. For example, just 19% of eligible women with learning disabilities have had a recent cervical screening, compared to 84% of the general population. There’s a 10% breast screening gap. And our research re-emphasised the importance of health checks in tackling known issues such as medication and constipation.
As a support provider to over 3500 adults with learning disabilities, Dimensions has produced a range of resources to help everyone with an interest in this area, from social stories to GP passports, constipation advice to best practice case studies. And we’re offering 50 free whole-practice GP training courses led by experts by experience, to start to make things better.
What you can do
You can make a difference. Encourage your GP surgery to undertake the training – there’s a flyer to download. Help us lobby for mandatory training for student GPs. Read and share the campaign widely. Play your part in tackling the mortality gap. Because everyone should have access to healthcare that meets their needs. Thank you.