Reducing health inequalities in Scotland: the involvement of people with learning disabilities as national health service reviewers

Authors

  • Martin Campbell,

  • Mike Martin


Abstract

Accessible summary

  •  People with learning disabilities have more health needs than the general population, and those health needs are different and require more specialised services. There is evidence of poorer outcomes and less effective health interventions for people with learning disabilities in Scotland, and elsewhere.
  •  Reducing health inequalities is currently a key priority for the Scottish Government and National Health Service (NHS) policy has encouraged patient involvement in healthcare planning and delivery. This article reports on an NHS initiative to involve people with learning disabilities as ‘expert patient’ reviewers in national review teams, looking at the quality of inpatient and community services for people with learning disabilities. All 15 Health Boards in Scotland were reviewed, using a set of quality indicators. Details of the planning and support arrangements are reported. The success of the initiative was evaluated.
  •  This involvement of people with learning disabilities as reviewers of NHS services has tested traditional assumptions and challenged the power imbalance in patient-provider relationships. Recommendations are made for the future success of similar schemes.

Summary

Reducing health inequalities is a key priority for the Scottish Government. Health authorities are expected to meet quality targets. The involvement of people with learning disabilities in health service review teams has been one of the initiatives used in by National Health Service Quality Improvement Scotland to empower patients and improve health services. This paper describes this initiative, how it was planned, and an evaluation by health staff, carers and people with learning disabilities. Recommendations are made to ensure the future success of this type of initiative in Scotland and elsewhere. This initiative was evaluated positively and tested traditional assumptions, challenging the power imbalance in patient-provider relationships. The theory and the practice of including people with learning disabilities as ‘expert patient’ reviewers are discussed.

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