Difficulties in accessing healthcare remain for people with learning disabilities Merseyside study shows


The Mencap Getting it Right campaign was launched some time ago in recognition that people with a learning disability were getting a raw deal from the NHS, with unequal access to treatments and reports of poor care. A range of reasons may lie behind this poor response, including inadequate training, lack of support, lack of knowledge and negative attitudes to learning disability in health care professionals.

The researcher in this small study was interested in hearing the voice of people with learning disability using hospital services in Merseyside.

He conducted 13 semi-structured interviews and carried out a thematic analysis of 12 of them. Two interviews took place with an unaccompanied person with a learning disability, three with a person with a learning disability alongside their carer, and seven with the carer or carers of a person with a learning disability.

The themes emerging from the analysis showed that the issues identified in the Mencap campaign and in previous studies remain.

The researcher concludes that people with learning disabilities on Merseyside

continue to contest with the same difficulties during hospital experiences as have been identified previously by numerous national and international investigations.

A small-scale investigation of hospital experiences among people with a learning disability on Merseyside: speaking with patients and their carers, Dinsmore, A, in  British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40: 201–212.

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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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