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3 November 2023

Bild responds to HSSIB report ‘Caring for adults with learning disabilities in acute hospitals’

HSSIB report highlights urgent need to improve health and social care for people with learning disabilities

The Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) latest report, Caring for adults with learning disabilities in acute hospitals, released this week (02.11.23), highlights clear violations of human rights and an urgent requirement to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities and autistic people in hospitals.

The devastating experience described in the report of a man with learning disabilities who passed away while staff struggled to communicate with him, is unacceptable but sadly not unheard of.

Health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities, where their healthcare, both physical and psychological, can be ignored, misdiagnosed and mistreated are often avoidable and unjustifiable.

Bild welcomes the HSSIB’s recognition of the need for urgent change. This includes their concern that not enough UK healthcare professionals are suitably trained to meet the needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people.

We share this concern and know that staff, who are doing their best, need adequate training and resources to help them meet people’s needs. This includes being able to understand different forms of communication and recognition of early warning signs, including that distressed behaviours often communicate unmet or urgent needs.

The report’s recommendation to focus on the role of liaison nurses is welcomed as they have been shown to be critical in improving care for people with learning disabilities. In addition, we welcome the recommendation on standardising the approach to health passports across the NHS to improve consistency and transparency of care.

Kate Brackley, Bild’s Learning Disability Advisor/Educator, said:

“I do not agree with the unfair treatment to people with learning disabilities.  

“We have a conference about health inequalities coming up and, seeing this report coming out, it is quite upsetting to see people with learning disabilities receiving poor, inadequate healthcare when we should be part of the community and receiving proper good quality healthcare the same as everyone else. 

“The Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training that is now rolling out is essential as, looking at what Oliver McGowan went through, this should never have happened and should not happen again.”

Bild supports the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism. Oliver’s tragic death shone a light on the need for better training in health and social care. It is essential that, as this important training is rolled out, there is a focus on how learning is applied within healthcare settings, in order to ensure lasting positive change to practice and to make a difference to the experiences of people with learning disabilities and autistic people.

Reducing health inequalities is a key focus of Bild’s work. The voices of people with learning disabilities – and their carers and families – should be firmly at the heart of healthcare decisions. Research shows that people with a learning disability were 3 to 4 times as likely to die from an avoidable medical cause, typically due to a lack of timely and effective treatment*.

The HSSIB report is published just days ahead of Bild’s online Preventing avoidable deaths: Stopping people with learning disabilities dying younger conference on November 8th.

To find out more information on Bild’s Preventing avoidable deaths online conference, click here.

The full HSSIB report is available here with the Easy Read version here.