Research finds that preventable mortality for people with learning disabilities is four times that of the population at large; that a diagnosis of schizophrenia shortens life by an average of 10 years, and that there is a less than 20 per cent take-up of cervical cancer screening among women with learning disabilities.
Evidence detailing the root causes of unequal health outcomes is indeed complex but when research shows that many deaths of disabled people are preventable, it is correct to inquire whether at a systems level we are failing to take the positive action needed to close this stark gap. The worrying disparities in health outcomes between people with learning disabilities and mental health problems and non-disabled people raise a serious point of concern that all healthcare practitioners and policy-makers should make an urgent priority. Without this the Government's commitment to reduce inequalities in health outcomes runs the real risk that socially excluded groups could be left out. The Disability Rights Commission's announcement of an 18-month investigation into primary healthcare services provided to disabled people is therefore as timely as it is welcome.
The Government's laudable ambitions to reduce health inequalities and create a momentum for individual responsibility must take into account the experiences of disabled people.
Professor CAROL M BLACK
President, Royal College of Physicians
Chief Executive, King's Fund
Dame GILL MORGAN
Chief Executive, NHS Confederation
Chairman, Royal College of General Practitioners
Dr BEVERLY MALONE
General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Baroness MURPHY OF ALDGATE
Chairman, North East London Strategic Health Authority
Professor of Psychiatry of Learning Disability, St George's Hospital Medical School
President, British Society of Gerontolology,
Dr MIKE SHOOTER
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
London WCIReuse content