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GPs’ role vital in care for people with learning disabilities, say nurses

GPs play vital role in improving care for people with learning disabilities, nurse leaders told the Learning Disability Practice conference in Manchester.
Estephanie Dunn

GPs play a crucial part in improving care for people with learning disabilities, according to nurse leaders.

RCN regional director for north west England Estephanie Dunn said GPs have a vital role to play in providing better care for those with learning disabilities.

Ms Dunn also expressed frustration that health outcomes were still poor, speaking at the Learning Disability Practice conference in Manchester yesterday.

She told nurses she wanted to ensure people with learning disabilities had the same chance as anyone else.

Screening difficulties

If you have a learning disability, it is likely you will die 16 years younger we need to change that.

Ms Dunn added she would push for GP practices to offer more health checks for those with learning disabilities and explained the difficulties of screening.

Cancer screening is very difficult for people with cognitive impairment, she said.

GPs play a crucial part in improving care for people with learning disabilities, according to nurse leaders.

RCN regional director for north west England Estephanie Dunn said GPs have a vital role to play in providing better care for those with learning disabilities.

Ms Dunn also expressed frustration that health outcomes were still poor, speaking at the Learning Disability Practice conference in Manchester yesterday.

She told nurses she wanted to ensure people with learning disabilities had the same chance as anyone else.

Screening difficulties

‘If you have a learning disability, it is likely you will die 16 years younger – we need to change that.’

Ms Dunn added she would push for GP practices to offer more health checks for those with learning disabilities and explained the difficulties of screening.

‘Cancer screening is very difficult for people with cognitive impairment,’ she said.

‘Just getting people to the dentist can be difficult.’ 

NHS England head of mental health and learning disability Hazel Watson added that annual health checks for those with learning disabilities were really important.

Tailored care

She said: ‘We absolutely need to get more people on to GP registers. These [provide] access to the rest of the health service.’

Ms Watson said once a person with learning disabilities was on a GP register, healthcare professionals could tailor care and adjust services accordingly.

‘I have a lot of debates with GPs who say they not sure about the value of annual health checks.

‘At the moment across the country there is just under 50% take up.

‘Given we have outrageous health inequalities around premature mortality, let’s not have that conversation.’

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