VODG 180An updated resource has been launched that explains how the health charter can be used by social care providers to improve the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities.

The second edition of Health Charter In Practice, published by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) and National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTI), supports the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities and aims to reduce inequalities in healthcare.

While organisations sign up to the charter to outline what they will do to boost people’s health, this accompanying self-assessment tool helps organisations measure progress and develop action plans for improvements.

More than 100 adult social care employers are already signed up to the guidance, which covers issues such as how to ensure all staff understand and apply the principles of mental capacity laws and how to listen to, respect and involve family carers. The resource includes practical steps on providing staff training on health and on promoting access to screening tests. 

It is well established that the health of people with learning disabilities is worse than that of the general population. The 2013 Confidential Inquiry Into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities found that, on average, learning disabled men die 13 years earlier and women 20 years earlier that the general population; almost half the deaths considered were premature. NHS England last year launched a national review of such premature deaths.

Health Charter… sets out key outcomes and advice from organisations already using the practical support which can be used to:

Establish a clear commitment to addressing health inequalities 

Deliver an important message to commissioners that health and wellbeing is a priority

Support regulatory compliance 

Drive improvements in services, set strategic goals and organisational responsibilities 

Support the duty – included in the Care Act – to promote wellbeing. 

Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, said: “The requirements of the Care Act combined with longstanding and compelling evidence of health inequalities make the health charter an invaluable resource for social care staff. Providers – and commissioners – must prioritise the individual health and wellbeing needs of people with learning disabilities.”

Sue Turner, learning disability lead at the NDTi, added: “The health inequalities people with learning disabilities experience are unjust and unfair. The health charter is designed to help social care providers tackle these inequalities, and the impact they can have on improving the health and therefore the lives of people with learning disabilities should not be underestimated.”

Michaela Hopps, Tees Esk Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust team lead, specialist health team, said: “The Care Act firmly places the emphasis on wellbeing, and care providers have a legal duty to anticipate health needs and act accordingly to avoid delays in care and treatment. The health charter is an invaluable tool for us to identify gaps in service through self-assessment and determine priorities for care delivery.”

Social care provider Vibrance is using the charter as is supports the complex health needs of a 64-year-old woman with learning disabilities. Jean Jay, director of development, said: “Signing up to the health charter has been of help to the Vibrance staff team when supporting someone with complex health needs who decided not to have treatment for cancer. They ensured that the person concerned had all the information needed to make an informed choice about her illness, the options and the consequences of her decisions, and are working with the health team and MacMillan Cancer Support service to ensure she gets the best possible support.”

The development of the health charter has been funded through the voluntary sector strategic partner programme, which is backed by the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England. The grant is held between VODG and the National Care Forum.

To read the charter, click here.