Health inequalities and people with learning disabilities: new guidance for commissioners

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Improving Health and Lives (IHaL) is the Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory: a three year project funded by the Department of Health in response to Sir Jonathan Michael’s 2008 inquiry into access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities. The national observatory aims to provide better, easier to understand information on the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities and to help commissioners to make use of existing information whilst working towards improving the quality and relevance of data in the future.

This report from the Improving Health and Lives learning disabilities public health observatory aims to translate key messages from research into health inequalities into advice for commissioners

The document provides guidance for those people with responsibility for commissioning services to enable them to increase access to, and improve healthcare for people with learning disabilities.

Key actions for commissioners to address inequalities are set out in the report and include:

  1. Ensuring health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities are carefully documented in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)
  2. Taking action to commission with all relevant partner agencies, services which address the determinants of health inequalities where these are linked to:
    • social factors such as poverty and poor housing
    • specific conditions
    • poor communication and understanding of health issues
    • individual lifestyles
    • the way healthcare is delivered.
  3. Improving the number and quality of annual health checks.
  4. Ensuring that requisite reasonable adjustments are implemented in all health care settings.
  5. Raising awareness of healthy lifestyles with people who have learning disabilities, their families and paid supporters.

The full report is available in pdf from the IHAL website:

Health Inequalities and People with Learning Disabilities in the UK 2011. Implications and actions for commissioners. Evidence into practice report no. 1 (revised), Turner S & Robinson C, IHAL.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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