BBC correspondents Ian Hamilton & Georgina Hayes have reported that according to the Scottish Learning Disability Observatory (SLDO) children with a learning disability in Scotland are more likely to die prematurely – often from treatable causes. The finding is part of research study by the SLDO which has found that 34% of these deaths were avoidable.
Previous research has found that adults with a learning disability were twice as likely to die from preventable illnesses.
The Scottish government said it was concerned about health inequalities.
Angela Henderson, director of policy and impact at the SLDO, said: “People with learning disabilities experience higher rates of multi-morbidity than the general population, and die prematurely, often from causes that are either treatable or preventable. These include epilepsy, deaths from respiratory conditions and deaths related to gastro-intestinal problems. These are all highly preventable and highly treatable.”
The SLDO said the preventable deaths in children and young people could be linked to a number of factors, including:
- Challenges accessing high-quality healthcare
- Communication barriers during health appointments
- Lack of awareness on the specific health care needs of young people with learning disabilities
Another key issue raised in the study, seen by BBC Scotland, is “diagnostic overshadowing” – where clinicians may wrongly assume that symptoms of an illness are related to a person’s learning disability, rather than to a specific health problem.
“Efforts to reduce the health inequalities that lead to the unnecessary deaths of children and young people with learning disabilities must be prioritised,” said Dr Laura Hughes-Mccormack, who led the study.
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