People with learning disabilities accessing maternity services

02 September 2019
8 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 9

Abstract

From September 2018–June 2019, I was fortunate enough to undertake a research internship with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). My chosen topic was ‘people with learning disabilities accessing maternity services'. This was because, through 19 years of clinical practice, I identified an increasing number of women and families with learning disabilities presenting for care in my Trust, but found no specific mention of learning disabilities in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2019) guidelines, nor a standard definition within which to work.

This led me to reflect on my experience and how midwives can assist women and families with learning disabilities. This refelection has been guided by Gibbs (1988).

Public Health England has estimated that 1 087 100 people in England, including 930 400 adults, have a degree of learning difficulty (Public Health England Learning Disabilities Observatory, 2015). However, there are no accurate numbers of parents accessing services (McGaw, 1997). Thurtle et al (2007) estimated that there could be 23 000–250 000 nationally; however, there are no more recent national statistics.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) (Rotherham, 2007) states that there should be a robust, flexible referral system for people with learning disabilities and a specialist or named midwife for disability. It sets out a group of standards to which all midwives and associated health professionals should work in order to provide effective care for patients with learning difficulties. This was underpinned by a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) code of professional conduct in relation to people with disabilities that was produced by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This code also stated that all Trusts should have a Disability Equality Scheme in place by 2000. However, this specific acknowledgement is no longer included in the latest version of the NMC Code (NMC, 2018).

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