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Antenatal support for people with learning disabilities

02 May 2015
Volume 23 · Issue 5


Following the introduction of learning disability nurses in acute and primary care in 2009, several health areas were taken into consideration as a priority for change. Maternity services were considered in order to bring this area into line with the other parts of the UK. This article will examine the provision of services for people with learning disabilities, and identify areas for improvement including educational needs for midwives. Outcomes of an audit and evaluations of local services against national policy and provision will be highlighted, barriers faced by both prospective parents with a learning disability and by professionals will be discussed and recommendations for future practice will be presented. Misleading diagnosis, discrepancies in numbers and training developments will also be addressed.

Despite Government policy identifying that ‘reasonable adjustment’ must be made when supporting parents with a learning disability, 23 midwives, team managers and health care assistants in midwifery services in Nottinghamshire have highlighted that there is little awareness in the field locally.

In 2013, it was estimated that 1 068 000 people in England had a degree of a learning disability (Public Heath England, 2013), yet there are no accurate records of the numbers of parents with a learning disability accessing services and estimates vary (McGaw, 1997). A major barrier to offering adequate support is the identification of parents with a learning disability. This can lead to a high proportion of parents with a learning disability having their children taken into care once born: in 2010, this figure was reported to be 60% (MENCAP, 2010). Achieving better patient care is the goal of all health professionals (Department of Health (DH), 2010). However, if the needs of this group are unknown, it is difficult to achieve effective patient-centred care within any health care setting, not just maternity services.

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