Nurses and other health professionals will be able to identify if a patient has a learning disability and has a specific need that requires a reasonable adjustment as part of a trial launched by NHS Digital.
The pilots in Gloucestershire in Devon will have a ‘reasonable adjustment flag’ on patient records to let health professionals know that a patient has a learning disability.
It can include details of a patient’s need for a longer appointment or a quieter waiting area, as well as how to communicate with them or who to involve in decisions about their health and care.
The information can be accessed by staff through the Summary Care Record Application, an existing programme designed to share key information about patients.
The trial – which will run until the end of September – is taking place in various care settings including GP surgeries, hospitals and community services for learning disability.
After the trial, NHS Digital will use feedback from staff, patients and carers to inform potential expansions including widening the geographical area and giving access to more care settings. It is also developing software to help integration with local clinical systems.
The pilot has been developed within the remit of the Equality Act 2010, which places a legal duty on health and care organisations to make it as easy for people with a disability to use health services as it is for people who do not have a disability.
Brendan Chivasa, member of learning disability charity Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign steering group and who has a learning disability, welcomed the move but stressed that more must be done to meet the needs of patients with learning disabilities.
He continued: ‘Personally, health professionals understand me because I’m able to express myself verbally, but for someone who is non-verbal it’s much more difficult for them to explain their symptoms and emotions. Therefore, I think the doctors and nurses should have access to more specialist training in this field, on top of this flagging system trial.’
Dr Rob Jeeves, clinical lead for the project at NHS Digital, said: ‘By helping staff to recognise their patients’ needs earlier, we can help those patients access the best possible care while reducing pressure on the NHS.
‘This pilot will explore how flagging vital information can influence the experience of care for people with a learning disability. This will help to drive real improvement for a patient group that is disproportionally affected by poor health outcomes. I welcome this step and look forward to the results of the pilot.’