People with a learning disability have a right to receive good healthcare, but are often let down by current provision. People with a learning disability experience poorer health and poorer healthcare than the general population.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission and our 'Death by indifference' campaign show how all parts of the health service are struggling to meet the needs of people with a learning disability, and too often fail in their efforts.
This section aims to provide health professionals with information on best practice, and where to go for information and support so all people with a learning disability get the best health treatment possible.
People with a learning disability have a right to receive good healthcare. They will need health care in the same way that everyone else will, and some people with a learning disability will have additional health needs (for example, people with a learning disability are more likely to have epilepsy). Often, they need more support to understand information about their health, to communicate symptoms and concerns, and to manage their health.
There are simple things all health practitioners can do to ensure that people with a learning disability get the health care they need:
- allow longer appointment times
- communication with the individual (verbal and non-verbal)
- listening to the knowledge of their families and carers and most important, equally valuing the life of a person with a learning disability.
The EasyHealth website has guides for professionals in treating people with a learning disability. It also includes easy read information that health professionals can use to help explain health issues and treatments to their patients with a learning disability.
The Disability Discrimination Act says that people with a disability must not be discriminated against. Service providers must make reasonable adjustments to give people with a disability an equal outcome. Failure to do this would be in breach of the law.
- People with a learning disability in medical research: Scoping review, Mencap 2014
- Support staff attitudes towards medical research with people with a learning disability, Mencap 2014
- Death by indifference Mencap, 2007
- Closing the Gap Disability Rights Commission, 2006
- Illness in people with intellectual disabilities British Medical Journal, 2008
Visit our case studies page to read about some examples of positive actions hospitals are taking to improve the service they give to people with a learning disability. If you have an example to include here, please email the campaigns team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Health awareness plays an important part in the way we support people with a learning disability. Our work involves producing resources for health and social care professionals to enable them to better understand health, diet and nutrition. We also produce resources for people with a learning disability that help them develop a better awareness of their own health, and give them tools for managing this.
How we work with others
We also work with a range of partners so that together we can reduce health inequalities for people with a learning disability. People with a learning disability often have difficulty in accessing health information to support their health needs. We link with external and specialist organisations to share our good practice, reach a wider audience and to ensure that the needs of people with a learning disability are featured and addressed.
For further information about issues relating to health and people with a learning disability, please contact:
Telephone: 020 7696 5583