Hospitals need to be more welcoming for people who have learning disabilities

The notion that hospitals are unfavourable for service users was echoed by many nurses during the course of this year’s Learning Disability Practice conference 

Jim Blair: ‘Hospitals are scary places for people with learning disabilities’
Picture: Neil O’Connor

‘Hospitals are scary places for people with learning disabilities. Why trust someone who knows nothing about you? Hospitals need to be much more welcoming places.’

These words are not mine, but those of Jim Blair, speaking with his fellow nurse consultant Joann Kiernan at this year’s Learning Disability Practice conference in Manchester.

Mr Blair and Ms Kiernan were speaking about their experiences of working with children and young people at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital and Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital respectively, but his comments were echoed in many other ways by other speakers throughout the day.

Fight for better care

From Jill Nasralla, who spoke so movingly about her fight for better care for her son Adam who has autism, to Serena Jones and Ged Jennings, liaison nurses at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, speaking about helping people who have learning disabilities cope better with a hospital visit.

Adjusting to being in hospital and admission to a unit are just some of the areas where the skills of learning disability nurses are powerful and unique.

This year’s conference highlighted many areas of excellent practice, but some of the failures such as ongoing important work outlined in the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme. The idea being to raise the issues so that everyone can learn from them and help prevent care failures. 

Reiterated themes

The themes raised by LeDeR are reiterated by Sir Michael Marmot’s team at University College London’s Institute of Equity, who have just produced a report saying that people with learning disabilities die, on average, 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population.

The LDP conference is a wonderful opportunity to network and brush up on your continuing professional development. We are already planning next year’s conference – same time (10 October), same place (Manchester Conference Centre) – so look out for updates online at learningdisabilitypractice.com