#MyGPandMe, a new report published by not-for-profit Dimensions, exposes the inequalities experienced by primary healthcare patients with autism and learning disabilities.
The life expectancy for a man with a learning disability is 23 years lower than in the general population, and the life expectancy for a woman with a learning disability is 29 years below average. Patients with autism and learning disabilities are more likely to experience a reduced quality of life, and for health issues to go undiagnosed and untreated.
As the first point of contact for most patients, primary healthcare is a significant part of the problem and the solution.
Research published in #MyGPandMe reveals patients with learning disabilities and autism are far less likely to receive routine cancer screenings than patients in the general population.
The report also explores other primary healthcare issues that disproportionally affect patients with learning disabilities.
As many as 30,000-35,000 people with learning disabilities and autism are at risk of being wrongly prescribed psychotropic medication. Most GPs (80 percent) recognise the problem and 48 percent said they would benefit from additional training on prescribing and assessing psychotropic medication for patients with learning disabilities and autism.
Compared to the general population, patients with autism and learning disabilities are 30% less likely to feel ‘listened to’ by their GP, 28 percent less likely to feel that they have enough time in an appointment, and 22 percent less likely to feel that they are treated with care and concern.
Under the Equality Act 2010, healthcare providers including GPs are obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for patients with learning disabilities, but half of the GPs surveyed by Dimensions said a lack of training on how to make reasonable adjustments was stopping them from meeting the individual needs of patients with autism and learning disabilities.
Encouragingly, GPs themselves are calling for additional training to tackle the issues they’ve identified.
Steve Scown, Chief Executive of Dimensions, said: “It is unacceptable that people with learning disabilities and autism are experiencing such striking levels of health inequality and a reduced life expectancy. Dimensions believe that patients with learning disabilities and autism deserve better from our healthcare system.
Reasonable adjustments are a legal right not a privilege. It’s vital that we provide GPs with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make small adjustments that will radically transform health outcomes for patients with autism and learning disabilities. With GPs joining our call for further training, we’re hopeful that change is on the horizon.”
Dimensions will be running 50 free GP practice training sessions, co-led by people with autism and learning disabilities, with a focus on making reasonable adjustments.