People with a learning disability are being asked to contribute to new tests which will help improve NHS services ranging from dentistry to acute care.

The NHS Quality Checkers programme sees people with a learning disability employed to inspect local NHS services critically, to provide advice on how they can better meet their needs and those of other patients.

qc-press-release-2People with a learning disability can face significant barriers to accessing NHS services, whether it’s the use of complicated forms and language, confusing layouts of buildings, or staff who aren’t sure how to interact with them.

This contributes to people with a learning disability being less likely to use services, including important programmes like health checks and cancer screening; as a result, they are more likely than average to experience poor physical health than the rest of the population.

Quality checkers use their own experiences to assess the quality of care and support patients receive, giving a view that can be often missing from other forms of inspection.

Evaluation of quality checking programmes currently operating in some areas show them to be an effective and efficient use of resources, and to be associated with increases in quality and improved outcomes. Building on this success, NHS England are now seeking input on new resources which will help support a national rollout.

Scott Durairaj, NHS England’s Experience of Care Lead for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, said: “The experience that people with learning disabilities have of health services directly impacts on how likely they are to use them, and therefore how healthy they’re likely to be.

“NHS Quality Checkers – designed and led by people with lived experience – have made a real difference to local services where they have been used; now we want to take it to the next level and make a significant contribution to improving health outcomes for this group of patients across England.”

Quality checkers with a learning disability carry out the evaluation, including talking to other service users about their experiences, and judging services against criteria they themselves consider to be important.

Claira Ferreira, Commissioning Lead for Learning Disability, NHS Nene and Corby Clinical Commissioning Groups said: “Our Quality Checker Service has been invaluable in supporting us with values based commissioning and has helped the voice of people with learning disabilities to be heard.”

Feedback from current quality checkers has also demonstrated the positive impact this work is having on the individuals involved, as well on improving attitudes towards those with a learning disability and/or autism.

Suzie Fothergill, Skills for People, Newcastle upon Tyne, and Chairperson, Association of Quality Checkers said: “I have been employed as a Quality Checker for many years now, and trained a lot of people with learning disabilities to do the same.  I am so pleased that health services across the country will be able to have NHS Quality Checkers.  Our work inspires health professionals to makes services better, so that people with learning disabilities can have better lives where they are healthy, happy and safe.

As set out in Building the right support, the national plan to transform services for people with a learning disability over the next 3 years, NHS England is now seeking to make it easier for groups to set up to offer Quality Checks, and improve consistency across the country, by establishing a national programme to support these local quality checks.

To support the rollout, and in partnership with the Centre of Disability Studies at the University of Leeds and CHANGE (a disabled person’s organisation focusing on the equality and inclusion for people with learning disabilities), NHS England is asking people with a learning disability, their loved ones and carers, and local and national groups representing them, to help develop new resources.

The resources will include training kits for new Quality Checkers, as well as template assessments which will produce national standards to be measured and benchmarked, while allowing for different local circumstances and needs to be taken into account.

The programme aims to develop tools that can be used by Quality Checkers in a range of service areas, including Community Services, Acute Hospitals and Mental Health Services.

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