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 of 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.

-ENDS-

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or media@mencap.org.uk.

Notes to editors

For further information of the Getting It Right – From the Start project follow this link

About Mencap

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.

Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

www.mencap.org.uk  

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk.

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people.

The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.