Mencap NI call for equal access to healthcare for people with a learning disability

Mencap NI are calling for equal access to healthcare for people with a learning disability with the launch of their ‘Treat Me Well’ report on health inequalities, at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast today, 14 October. 

The report is launched as part of the charity’s ‘Activism Week’ for their Treat Me Well health campaign in Northern Ireland for equal, safe and accessible healthcare for the 42,000 people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland.  Compared to the wider population the Mencap report shows that people with a learning disability are:

  • Four times more likely to die avoidably in hospital
  • Less likely to have breast, bowel and prostate cancer screening
  • Twice as likely to suffer diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease or stroke
  • Five times more likely to end up in hospital for preventable diseases that can be treated by the GP
  • More likely to experience dementia, major mental health problems, anxiety and depression

Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap NI said: “People with a learning disability face many health inequalities compared to the general population, they experience markedly different outcomes in terms of avoidable deaths, long-term health conditions and life expectancy.  We must work to ensure that health inequalities faced by people with a learning disability are eliminated, and individuals have access to the same quality of physical and mental healthcare as everybody else.”

Mencap’s report outlines the main barriers to quality health provision for people with a learning disability, such as the lack of reasonable adjustments in hospital, which requires better communication, more time and clearer information.  There is a lack of training and understanding about learning disability. Research conducted by Mencap England in 2018 showed that 66% of healthcare professionals would welcome more learning disability training. 

Selina and Alora McInerney
Selina and Alora McInerney

 

Alora McInerney is four years old and has the brittle bone condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Hydro Kephalis, Pulmonary Hypoplasia, and Developmental Delay requiring constant medical and hospital treatments since she was born.  

Alora’s Mother Selina McInerney from Comber said: “Alora’s condition means that we can need Hospital care at any time. Alora is non-verbal, so it is important for healthcare staff to listen to what I tell them about Alora and what she is trying to communicate. This is the same for any parent or carer of someone with a learning disability, especially as so many people with a learning disability have profound multiple and complex needs who require daily health and social care support.”

There are 42,000 people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland, with 5,000 under the age seven, and most will engage with the NI Healthcare system at some point in their lives.  Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign aims to raise awareness about the healthcare needs of people with a learning disability, including highlighting the main barriers to quality health provision.