Last year, we posted a guest blog by Pauline Heslop, a researcher at the Norah Fry Research Centre, who set out the alarming findings of a confidential enquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities. The enquiry found that people with learning disabilities die significantly younger in England and Wales than people without learning disabilities. In fact, people with learning disabilities are two and a half times more likely to die before the age of 50. Now, a new charter has been launched which aims to tackle health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities.
‘The Health Charter for Providers Supporting People with Learning Disabilities’ has been devised in by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) and the Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory, in partnership with the National Development Team for Inclusion, The National Care Forum and Mencap.
Organisations supporting people with learning disabilities are urged to sign up to the charter, which will commit them to a range of actions aimed at improving health outcomes for people, including
- Ensuring staff understand and apply the principles of the mental capacity act
- Listening to, respecting and involving family carers
- Providing staff training on basic health and wellbeing issues
- Providing accessible information on health and wellbeing
- Promoting access to screening and ensuring everybody gets an annual health check.
To help organisations get started, there is a self assessment tool which will help to identify local priorities and guidance has been prepared for both providers and commissioners on the key issues.
Visit the charter website here.
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One of the reasons people with LD die earlier than the rest of society is more often than not their life experiences are so poor that they often become anxious and depressed and invariably end up having to take powerful drugs to manage these feelings. These drugs have side effects which weaken their bones, lower their white blood cells and often make them pyschotic. The answer is to try to stop these things happening in the first place, i.e. listen listen and listen again to them, their carers and to the people who know them best. When they say they do not want their lives changed, respect that decision and do not try to demonise their choices.