Doctors Admit Healthcare Discrimination

Most doctors believe that patients with a learning disability receive poorer healthcare than the rest of the population

A poll commissioned by the General Medical Council (GMC) shows that more than half of doctors think that patients with a learning disability receive a poorer standard of healthcare.

More than one in three doctors also reported that they had personally seen a patient with a learning disability being given poorer care or facing some form of discrimination.

The survey of more than 400 doctors shows that staff feel that they lack the resources or appropriate training to deliver equal healthcare to people with a learning disability. Three quarters said that they would welcome online advice on treating patients with a learning disability.

The results follow Mencap’s ‘74 deaths and counting‘ report, which was published in January as a follow-up to the 2007 ‘Death by indifference‘ report. It found that the NHS is still putting lives at risk by failing to adhere to the Equality Act.

Mencap’s chief executive Mark Goldring said: “The GMC’s survey confirms that many doctors still do not understand how to treat people with a learning disability. It is not right that they continue to receive a poorer standard of healthcare than the rest of the population despite having greater health needs.”

New online resource

Following its poll, the GMC has introduced a new online resource for doctors treating people with a learning disability. The GMC’s learning disability website identifies key issues around treating people with a learning disability, discrimination and working with carers. It also outlines the GMC’s guidance and shows how it can be put into practice.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said that it is their responsibility as regulator to address the issue in a positive way. “This isn’t about introducing new guidance for doctors on this subject, as GMC guidance applies to all doctors for all patients,” he explained. “It’s about building doctors’ confidence when dealing with patients who have a learning disability and enabling them to make some small changes which can have a big impact on the standard of care they provide.”