A special conference has been held that examined some of the problems people with learning disabilities may face when trying to access healthcare services.

Around 100 people from Kirklees attended the conference on June 27th, called ‘Action on Health for People with Learning Disabilities’. The delegates included professionals from learning disability services, socials services, primary and secondary acute care and education. It also included professionals from across the private and voluntary sector and, most importantly, people with learning disabilities, and their carers.

Throughout the day there was an opportunity to view a number of poster exhibitions, which demonstrated the variety of work that goes on within learning disability services, as well as general information about health issues. The conference marked the launch of a health strategy for people with learning disabilities in Kirklees, reinforcing national agendas and looking at how these are addressed locally, in regards to health facilitation and better access.

The day included presentations by staff from the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, as well as social services and Huddersfield Central Primary Care Trust. There was also a presentation from people with a learning disability and also a carer, which gave them an opportunity to tell the conference what they wanted from healthcare services.

The main focus of the day was group work, which aimed to identify the problems in accessing healthcare for people with learning disabilities, and then looked at creating solutions. Different groups looked at one healthcare situation each; going to the doctors, going to the opticians, attending a routine screening, and when someone may feel depressed and needs to access mental health services.

Each group identified what barriers prevented a person with learning disabilities from a ‘normal’ healthcare experience and finding solutions to these problems were also addressed. All of these discussions will now be written up and circulated to primary care and acute services. It is hoped that it will be the starting point of any future work.

Speaking about the day, Jane Smith, clinical nurse manager for the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, said, ‘It was a really good day and we’ve generated around 100 innovative ideas to make services more accessible. We tried to strike a good balance between involving professionals and people with learning disabilities and their carers. The workshops allowed people on all levels, whether a professional or a person with learning disabilities, to input. When you are addressing access to health services it is vital that you listen to a varied group of people’.


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