Nurses and healthcare workers have been issued with new guidance on caring for people with learning disabilities.
The toolkit provides advice on health issues ranging from how to take someone's temperature to how to resuscitate them. It has been drawn up by social care organisation Turning Point with the aim of helping services improve the physical health of people with learning disabilities and their quality of life.
After two years in development, the advice is released amid rising concerns that people with learning disabilities face considerable health inequalities. They are 54 times more likely to die before the age of 50 for example than the general population.
The guidance highlights early warning signs to enable workers to support people to access their GP earlier. This will help to avoid hospital admissions, escalation of health issues and support individuals to be as healthy as possible, according to Turning Point.
Karen Hibell, a learning disability nurse at Turning Point who helped draw up the guidance, said: "People with a learning disability are much more likely to die prematurely than the general population. The NHS has said the reduction of learning disability mortality rates is a priority. But to date, little action has been taken.
"So many assumptions are made when someone can't communicate verbally. It's often down to a lack of training and understanding that people with learning disabilities face health inequalities – and this cannot continue.
"This toolkit aims to ensure they lead a full and healthy life."
Fiona Ritchie, managing director for learning disability at Turning Point, added: "When we work with people with learning disabilities who are non-verbal it can be difficult at times for support workers, health staff and others to know when people are poorly, because individuals might not tell us in a way that is obvious.
"The development of this toolkit is to aid those working with people who have learning disabilities to think proactively about people’s health and support individuals to lead a fulfilled life in good health. We hope this toolkit will do just that, and are making it available to the wider health and learning disability community to utilise."
The toolkit can be found here.