Most doctors believe that people with a learning disability receive poorer care than rest of the population, according to a poll commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC).
Additionally, more than a third of respondents reported having personally seen a patient with a learning disability receive poorer care or face some form of discrimination.
The poll, carried out by ICM, took the views of 400 doctors, half of which were GPs, the others hospital doctors. Respondents were keen to change this and wanted help to do this, with three-quarters indicating that online advice on treating patients with a learning disability would be useful. In response, the GMC has launched an online resource offering practical advice for doctors treating people with learning disabilities.
To prepare the website, the GMC worked closely with people with learning disabilities, the bodies that represent them, carers, doctors and experts. It includes advice on communication, seeking consent and assessing a patient's needs. To view the website, click here.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: "We know that too often patients who have a learning disability receive poorer treatment and that sometimes health professionals fail to see past the patient's disability to identify underlying physical problems. We hope this advice and support will be useful to doctors and others who want to make sure patients with learning disabilities are given the best possible care and treatment."
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, added: "It is clear from the GMC survey that many doctors recognise that the care of people with a learning disability is simply not good enough. It is not right that they continue to receive a poorer standard of healthcare than the rest of the population despite having greater health needs. "The GMC's new online resource represents a commitment from the regulator to help tackle this problem. Their new initiatives will help ensure that doctors get the right support and guidance to provide individuals with a learning disability with healthcare that meets their needs. This will ultimately help to save lives. "The fact that so many healthcare professionals recognise they need to do more to get it right when treating people with a learning disability and want more help in this area clearly highlights the importance of this much needed resource and is to be welcomed."