Column: Value the learning disability community

Mark Johnson (left) and Raymond Humphreys who both have a learning disability and former Healthwatch Doncaster official, Kay Kirk
Mark Johnson (left) and Raymond Humphreys who both have a learning disability and former Healthwatch Doncaster official, Kay Kirk

People with a learning disability are some of the most valuable members of our society, yet for many years they have, arguably, received a ‘Cinderella’ health service.

Home for many has often been a life lived in long term institutions, sometimes hidden away, with little opportunity to enjoy community life like the rest of us.

Bentley GP Dr David Crichton

Bentley GP Dr David Crichton

But, thankfully, changes are now on the way thanks to a new Government initiative that’s set to transform the way that we care for those with such disabilities.

Doncaster has joined forces with NHS and local authority colleagues in Sheffield, Rotherham and North Lincolnshire to create a Learning Disability Transforming Care Partnership. Central to this is to work out how, collectively, we can provide safe care and treatment to people of all ages who have a learning disability and/or autism so they are offered the same opportunities as everyone else to live satisfying and valued lives and are treated with dignity and respect.

The aim is to reduce our reliance on inpatient care for people who don’t need to be in hospital. Some people with a learning disability live in hospitals locally and others are housed further afield to meet their special needs. Where it’s possible, we intend to bring them back closer to home.

So our plan over the next couple of years is to provide more homes in the community where people with complex needs can be cared for. Coupled to this will be specialist services that are able to respond quickly to provide short-term intensive support to someone with a learning disability when they have a crisis.

We’re also providing more training for clinicians in Doncaster, so they have the skills needed to care for the on-going physical health of someone with a learning disability to prevent an emergency admission to hospital. And it doesn’t stop there. Here in Doncaster we want people who have special needs to have a say in the type of health services that are provided for them, so we’ve appointed three local people to do just that. Mark Johnson and Raymond Humphryes both have a learning disability and former Healthwatch Doncaster official Kay Kirk is a carer for her son, who also has special needs. They are ‘experts by experience’ in this field and will provide valuable insights and input into the development of local learning disability and other services. They will also be members of the Transforming Care Partnership board and sit on recruitment panels to appoint health workers to key learning disability service posts. Mark and Raymond are no strangers to health promotion in Doncaster, having been featured in two cancer awareness campaigns targeting the Borough’s learning disability community.