6 Dec 2012

Can’t care, won’t care: or has the NHS really changed?

As Channel 4 News investigates why people with a learning disability are still dying in hospitals when they shouldn’t be, Mencap volunteer Lloyd Page tells us about his experience.

Lloyd Page, Mencap volunteer

Mencap’s 2007 report, Death by Indifference, said that people with a learning disability were dying in the NHS unnecessarily, because doctors and nurses did not value their lives.

Families came to Mencap because their loved one had poor care in hospital. Or they weren’t treated quickly enough. Or they ignored their pain. There were many problems and doctors were ignoring disability law. We think it was discrimination because they had a learning disability.

It has been five years since that report. And a lot of good things have happened because of it, because the Government admitted that there was a problem.

For example, there are now a lot of learning disability nurses in hospitals who have special training. I know how important this is. I have a learning disability and I am lucky because my GP and my dentist always speak very clearly to me and make sure I understand what they are saying. This is very important, because people with a learning disability can find it hard to communicate.

Read Victoria Macdonald's blog: Fair care - or death by indifference?

I have been working with Jim Blair who is a consultant learning disability nurse at St George’s Hospital in Tooting in London. I help Jim to train doctors, nurses and dentists, so that they know how to communicate clearly with patients with a learning disability. I think there still needs to be more learning disability nurses in hospitals.

But even though good things have happened, there are still many problems.

Mencap has now worked on 85 cases where people with a learning disability have died unnecessarily. I know someone whose sister died because doctors didn’t understand what a learning disability was, so they didn’t understand her needs.

I think that until doctors and nurses actually follow disability laws, and stop discriminating against people with a learning disability, there will be more deaths.

For more information, visit Mencap’s Getting it Right campaign.

Written by Lloyd Page, who volunteers for Mencap.