Mencap's Getting It Right - From The Start (GIR-FTS) project, which was discussed at yesterday's All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), has revealed 93% of GPs would recommend specific training on learning disability to all health professionals.
GIR-FTS was discussed by leading health experts including former head of the British Medical Association Baroness Hollins, at yesterday's APPG. The three-year project was designed to improve the inequalities in primary care suffered by many people with a learning disability, detailed in Mencap's major 'Death by Indifference' report.
The project saw 718 medical staff from 72 GP surgeries attend workshops ran by Mencap and delivered by people with a learning disability. A survey was taken at the beginning and end of the project by all participating health professionals, volunteers and people with a learning disability. From this a full evaluation in to the project has been published which has shown dramatic improvements to the healthcare given to people with a learning disability, who consistently suffer from substandard treatment, in some cases leading to avoidable deaths.
Rhea Sinha, project manager of GIR-FTS said:
"We are aware that over 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably every year in our NHS. Much of this is due to health professionals not knowing enough about learning disability and attributing complaints of pain as a symptom of a patient's learning disability. This project and the evaluation have shown how simple, non-costly initiatives and making reasonable adjustments can dramatically improve healthcare for people with a learning disability. The GP surgeries involved made these reasonable adjustments accessible and inclusive and people with a learning disability said they have received significantly better care as a result."
Jan Tregelles, chief executive, Mencap said:
"At Mencap we hear too many stories of people with a learning disability having their health issues misdiagnosed and suffering greatly as a consequence. This scheme has proven to be highly successful by showing what a difference small changes can make. However now we have this evidence these recommendations need to be rolled out more widely, to ensure avoidable deaths stop happening, and people with a learning disability receive the same quality of healthcare as anyone else."
One of the GIR-FTS volunteers from North Tyneside said:
"I hope GPs will appreciate that there needs to be reasonable adjustments made for people with a learning disability. I feel that every GP should have to be on-board with the training and not have the choice to opt out, as every practice has a patient who has a learning disability."
Key successes from the project which worked in partnership with four clinical commissioning groups were:
- Non-medical staff receiving basic training in learning disability issues rose from 29% to 95% over the course of the project.
- At the baseline stage, 26% of people with a learning disability across the project reported they did not understand the information given to them by their GPs. None of the case study subjects reported having this problem.
- 78% of practices now report taking steps to ensure the quality of health checks for people with a learning disability is maintained at a high level, compared to 42% at the beginning of the project.
- Surgeries who reported that all GPs in their practices had attended a learning disability-related training event in the last two years rose from 21% at the baseline stage to over 67% now.