“What’s your NHS like for you?”
People with learning disabilities find it harder to see a GP, says report
A new report titled “What’s your NHS like for you?” from Hywel Dda Community Health Council reveals that people with learning disabilities are often struggling to get an appointment with their GPs.
The Community Health Council held a joint event with Pembrokeshire People First (a charity run by and for people with learning disabilities and/or autism) to hear more from people with a learning disability and those who care for and about them about their day to day experiences of NHS services.
The resulting report reveals that due to increasing numbers of people trying to get an appointment with their GP, practices often resort to a ‘phone-in’ policy to see a doctor. This often makes it difficult for people with learning disabilities to work their way through the new arrangement. One person told the community health council that by the time they’d found someone to help them with calling a practice, all appointments were taken up.
Other concerns included difficulties with communication, including finding it hard to understand automated telephone menus or instructions on medication. The respondents told the community health council that although they understood doctors and NHS staff were usually trying to help, it could be frustrating when people spoke to their parents or carers instead of directly to them.
Some of the carers or support workers responding felt that at times, they were not listened to, even though they knew the person they were supporting very well.
However, many of the people surveyed had a range of very positive things to say about their NHS experiences, including liking the way that their doctor treated them.
People frequently said that the NHS staff they see are kind and caring. The fact that NHS staff seem highly skilled was also a source of reassurance.
Other elements commended were text reminders for appointments, and helpful maps and signs.
Dr John Morgan, Chair of the Hywel Dda Community Health Council, said:
“Although people with a learning disability face specific challenges, we were interested to hear that the matters people raised reflect many of the same positive experiences of the NHS – and its challenges and difficulties – as anyone else.
“It was great to hear the praise for NHS staff from our respondents. Something as easy as being kind and caring can make a huge difference for patients, and it was heartening to see that some of the people we spoke to felt at ease.”
“However, the issues surrounding appointments and communication for people with learning disabilities is a real cause of concern for us. The general public often find it difficult to deal with problems such as finding an appointment, but it can be so much harder for people with learning disabilities.
“It is vital that the health board thinks of the needs of people with a learning disability when designing, developing and delivering all its healthcare services.”