Guidance on better health outcomes for commissioners and providers of social care for people with learning disabilities

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Based on the ‘Health Inequalities and People with Learning Disabilities in the UK’ report this document looks at ways to put the evidence base into practice to improve health outcomes for people with learning disabilities.

The report looks at what is known about the social determinants of poorer health in people with learning disabilities, increased risks of health problems associated with specific genetic and biological causes;  communication and understanding; personal health risks and behaviours and access to and the quality of health care and other services

There are a number of specific suggestions for actions for commissioners and providers of social care including the need for commissioners to have a clear understanding of the local population, the health inequalities people with learning disabilities face to facilitate joint commissioning plans and  to ensure providers support people with learning disabilities to understand the importance of health screening and promotion. Providers are urged to ensure that training and advice for support staff is available to enable them to understand the implications of specific syndromes and to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to recognise changes in an individual’s behaviour potentially indicating discomfort or pain in people with learning disabilities.

The author concludes that “many of the determinants of poor health can be mitigated by appropriate preventative measures such as better screening, targeted information, advice and support and reasonable adjustments to ensure people get good quality healthcare.”

Health Inequalities and People with Learning Disabilities in the UK:2011. Implications and actions for commissioners and providers of social care. Evidence into practice report no.4, Turner S, Improving Health & Lives.

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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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