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GPs ill-prepared for patients with learning difficulties

People with learning disabilities are getting a worse service from their GPs, despite needing more medical care than the average patient. Nearly six out of 10 GPs questioned for a survey for the charity Mencap could not identify all their patients with learning disabilities, and four out of five said that their health care needs were less well met.

Poor communications, low expectations of GP services and bad past experiences meant that those with learning disabilities made a lower than average number of visits to their GPs - despite having greater than average medical needs. As a result, large numbers of people with learning disabilities went for long periods without simple check-ups, such as hearing tests.

Only 15 per cent of GPs had received formal training in dealing with learning disabilities. The result was that between a third and a half of patients said that they did not understand what the doctor said in consultations, and eight out of 10 felt their GP did not spend enough time with them.