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GPs speak out over ‘inferior service’ offered to patients with learning disabilities

Almost two-thirds of GPs believe that patients with learning disabilities receive a worse service than other patients, a GMC survey has found.

The poll – of 400 GPs and hospital doctors – found 64% of GPs thought patients with learning disabilities received inferior treatment, compared with 54% of hospital doctors who felt those patients’ care was worse.

It comes as the Care Quality Commission uncovered ‘major concerns’ at the care given to people with learning disabilities at some hospitals and care homes, as part of its unannounced inspections programme.

The ICM survey found that 35% of GPs said they had first-hand experience of a patient with learning disabilities receiving poorer care or facing discrimination, and 70% said they would benefit from online training and advice on caring for patients with learning disabilities.

The poll was published as the GMC launched a new website dedicated to helping doctors provide better care for patients with learning disabilities. It features the views and experiences of patients with learning disabilities, and includes simple suggestions for putting GMC guidance in this area into practice.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said doctors needed to ‘see past the patient’s disability to identify underlying physical problems’.

‘In many cases the evidence suggests small changes in the way care is provided can have a big impact on the patient’s experience,’ he said.