Brendan Chivasa, Campaigner, Mencap
Lots of people with a learning disability face problems getting the healthcare they have a right to. I have a learning disability and I am lucky that my experience has normally been good. My GP is always very supportive – they talk to me, ask me questions, and make it easier for me to understand.
Sometimes I have had problems. For example, sometimes in GP appointments the doctor has spoken to my support worker rather than me, and it makes me annoyed because they think I can’t explain how I feel on my own. I have told my GP they should talk to me and now they always listen to me. They give me extra time to understand, and they make the reasonable adjustments I need.
But not everyone gets a good experience because some doctors don’t make adjustments. Some of my friends have had that experience. They don’t listen and don’t give them extra time. I think it’s wrong and unfair.
One way to make sure you get the right support is to join the GP Learning Disability Register. This is a list of all people with a learning disability that the GP surgery looks after. The register helps the GP surgery to know which patients need extra support because of their learning disability, and you can ask your GP about making sure you are on the GP Learning Disability Register.
This extra support can also include annual health checks which help people with a learning disability with their health. I like my annual health check because they give me a chance to express what I’m feeling at the moment. I can ask questions about anything health wise that I’m thinking or worried about. They check you are okay and they measure things like your height and weight, if you’re eating healthily, and how you are doing. Anyone with a learning disability aged 14 and over can have an annual health check and I think they’re really important.
I am really passionate about people with a learning disability getting the support they need at the doctors and in hospital, and I have got involved in lots of campaigning. Going back to 2018, I started to get involved in Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign. The campaign is all about changing how the NHS treats people with a learning disability.
For me it was very important to be involved in campaigning, and people all across the country come together to discuss what we are doing in our own local areas. Harrow Mencap have focused on making sure there are more learning disability nurses to support people, because there was only one nurse for three different areas in North London. We spoke to our local MP about getting more learning disability nurses and finally, after all our campaigning, now there are two learning disability nurses which is so important. We even won an award for our work.
While there is still a lot that needs to change to make sure people with a learning disability get the healthcare support they need, joining the GP Learning Disability Register is one important step to getting better support.
You can find advice on how to get support from the doctor at your GP surgery by visiting Mencap’s site. Mencap has created four guides focused on the support available, how to join the GP Learning Disability Register, annual health checks and reasonable adjustments.
Find out more here: https://www.mencap.org.uk/advice-and-support/health/gp-surgery.