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Promoting a safer hospital environment

Nurse outside hospital with two patients

Hospital patients with learning disabilities face longer waits and mismanaged treatment due to nursing staff’s failure to understand them, according to a report released in 2014 by a research team, including Dr Irene Tuffrey-Wijne. The report said people with learning disabilities were largely invisible within hospitals, which meant their additional needs were not recognised or understood by staff. The most common safety issues were delays and omissions of care and treatment.

Key barriers to better care included the absence of effective flagging systems, leading to a failure to identify patients with learning disabilities in the first place, and a lack of understanding amongst nursing staff about learning disability issues.

The research team recommended using specialist liaison nurses and ward managers who can advocate on behalf of patients with learning difficulties, as well as flagging patients with learning disabilities and involving family and other carers in the process.