The Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the University of Ulster have hosted a conference which has showcased the work that has been done to date to promote the health and wellbeing of people with a learning disability and demonstrate the commitment to address health and social wellbeing inequalities of people with a learning disability in the future.
Mr Aidan Murray, Assistant Director of Mental Health and Learning Disability, HSCB, referenced the contribution that the National Confidential Inquiry (2013) has made in highlighting that people with a learning disability are likely to die 20 years younger compared with the general population. In addition, there is evidence that there is also unequal access to services, with delayed diagnosis.
The Learning Disability Conference for professionals, service users and carers showcased the work to date, demonstrated the commitment of professionals to ensuring that those with a learning disability have the same access to services as any member of the general public, and showed how the work will be continued and extended through the next phase.
Molly Kane, Regional Lead Nurse Consultant Mental Health and Learning Disability at the PHA, said: “It was identified that action was needed to improve the health and wellbeing of people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland and in order to do so a new group has been formed to coordinate health care and improvement initiatives across health and social care services.”
There were a number of presentations from trusts from across Northern Ireland and from the University of Ulster on current initiatives and good practice.
Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “I am delighted to hear about the emphasis given to addressing the health needs of people with learning disabilities in Northern Ireland. We know that this is a pressing need and one that needs to be given priority.
“Learning disability nurses are a critical ingredient for success in achieving health improvements and that is why I will be launching a specific action plan for learning disability nurses in the very near future. This action plan will demand that nurses in this important specialty target health improvement as a core function of their role.”
Notes to the editor
Key speakers included the Chief Nursing Officer, DHSSPS, Aidan Murray, HSCB, Professor Owen Barr, and representatives from DHSSPS, RQIA, HSCB, HSCTs , PHA and University of Ulster. Also three Nurse Consultants from Learning Disability in England presented an innovative assessment and care planning tool, to measure quality of care provision and outcomes in Community Learning Disability settings and there was a performance of a series of short sketches relating to health, by the Lilliput Theatre Company, a group of actors who all have a Learning Disability.
A Direct Enhanced Service (DES) was introduced in Primary Care to offer health screening to people with a learning disability. This screening was undertaken by GP practices in collaboration from Health Facilitators, Learning Disability Nurses from the five HSC Trusts. An evaluation of this service was undertaken by Prof Roy McConkey of the University of Ulster.
Photo caption: Left to right is – Molly Kane, Regional Lead Nurse Consultant Mental Health& Learning Disability, PHA, Aidan Murray, Asst Director for Mental Health & Learning Disability, HSCB, Mary Black, Assistant Director of Health Improvement & Wellbeing, PHA, Professor Roy McConkey, Emeritus Professor of Developmental Disabilities, University of Ulster
Second Row left to right – Laurence Taggart, Reader in the Institute of Nursing & Health Research, University of Ulster, Maurice Devine, Assistant Head HSC Clinical Education Centre, CEC/DHSSPS, Charlotte McArdle, Chief Nursing Officer, DHSSPS and Ursula Campbell, Shadow Councillor, CAN.