hospitalA charter has been launched for social care providers which aims to tackle the health inequalities that people with learning disabilities often face.

The Health Charter for Providers Supporting People with Learning Disabilities is designed to support social care providers to improve the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities, thus improving their quality of life generally.

To support organisations as they put the charter into practice, there is also guidance for providers and commissioners and, specifically for social care staff, a self-assessment tool.

The charter has been devised in by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) and the Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory, in partnership with the National Development Team for Inclusion, The National Care Forum and Mencap.

The charter is in response to reports, including 2013’s The Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities, which found that men die an average 13 years before and women 20 years before their non-disabled counterparts. Almost half of the deaths considered in the study were deemed premature.

The Health Charter commits providers to:

Ensure that all staff understand and apply the principles of mental capacity laws

Listen to, respect and involve family carers to achieve the best possible outcomes for the individual

Provide on-going training to staff on basic health and wellbeing issues including pain recognition, and the implications of specific syndromes and health conditions

Provide information on health and wellbeing that is accessible to people with a learning disability

Make sure support is available from someone who can, if necessary, advocate on behalf of the individual so that people can attend and benefit from all types of health appointments

Promote access to screening tests by: helping staff and the people they support understand their importance and working in partnership with clinical services to ensure support is available before, during and after screening checks 

Provide clear guidance to staff relating to each individual that will allow them to administer prescription and non-prescription remedies safely

Facilitate access to an annual health check for every eligible person with a learning disability

Ensure each person supported by our organisation who wants one, has a health action plan and hospital passport

If the person has more than one long-term health condition including mobility issues, a healthcare coordinator would be made available

Ensure that all staff, people with learning disabilities and their families are made aware of this charter.

In a blog, VODG general secretary, John Adams, said: “It is imperative that social care providers sign up to the charter. Organisations and their staff have a vital role to play in promoting health and wellbeing and making it easier for individuals to access services.

“Who exactly should sign up? Where possible, the social care provider organisation should sign up to the charter, and support their staff regarding implementation. However, staff teams within organisations may also want to sign up to enable those they support to improve their health and wellbeing. Health professionals must also do more to make services more accessible, and improve the health and wellbeing support they offer to people with learning disabilities.”

Visit the charter website here

Further reading: People with learning disabilities more likely to die prematurely than general population, study finds