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There are currently 1.5million people with a learning disability (LD) in the United Kingdom and 700,000 autistic people in the UK (more than one in 100). Many of these people experience difficulties accessing healthcare, especially when unwell.

MTW is committed to equality in care for all patients. We want to support our patients with learning disabilities and/or autism and ensure they receive the best level of care during their hospital visit. Our aim is to provide person-centred care to all our patients, to ensure we avoid making assumptions about patients and listen to them and their families.

To support this approach the Trust has launched a campaign that aims to help better understand autism and improve care for patients. The campaign, entitled Different. Not less, aims to promote equality in care and encourages staff to avoid making assumptions about patients and to listen to them and their families.

The campaign provides detailed information about autism and learning disabilities with guidance on some of the dos, don’ts and includes myth-busting. To support the campaign, we have rolled out autism reality experience training for staff across all areas of the Trust to help increase understanding of the hypersensitivity that can be caused by the actions of others and by the hospital environment. The training provides the experience of what living with autism or a learning disability might be like and how simple changes to clinical practice and the hospital environment can improve the hospital experience for autistic patients or those with learning disabilities.

You can read the press release about the launch of the campaign here.

Click here to watch a video explaining more about the campaign.

The Different. Not less campaign was first launched by Medway NHS Foundation Trust in 2020 and was created by Ginny Bowbrick – a consultant vascular surgeon and mother of autistic twins with severe learning disabilities.

To support our patients and their families, we have a Learning Disability Liaison Nurse, Philippa Routs, who can be contacted by calling the MTW switchboard: 01622 729000.

MTW uses the national hospital passport document to support our patients. This is an information document about an individual with the aim of aiding MTW staff in providing highly personalised, person centered care to people with LD and autistic people in hospital. MTW encourages individuals and those who support them to complete the hospital passport document in advance of hospital appointments or inpatient admissions, so it is ready should they have a need to attend hospital.

MTW also has a range of easy read information leaflets available to support our patients. Please ask a staff member for further information.

Understanding autism and learning disabilities…

What is Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC)?

  • Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how people perceive, communicate and interact with others.
  • Autism varies widely because of the range of ways it can impact on people and the different level of support they may need across their lives. People may need help with: forming friendships, coping at school, managing at work, getting out and about in the community.
  • While autism is not a learning disability, around 4 in 10 autistic people have a learning disability.
  • There are an estimated 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK – approximately 1% of the population.

Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. Anyone can experience sensory overload, people with a learning disability, autism, dementia or some mental health conditions are more likely to experience it.

 What is a learning disability?

  • A significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn new skills (impaired intelligence).
  • A reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning).
  • These are in evidence before adulthood and have a lasting effect on development.

Did you know?

  • On average 1,200 people with a learning disability in the UK die avoidably each year.
  • On average the life expectancy of men with a learning disability is 13 years shorter when compared with men in the general population.
  • On average the life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 20 years shorter when compared with women in the general population.

The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) Programme

The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) Programme is a world-first. It is the first national programme of its kind aimed at making improvements to the lives of people with learning disabilities. Reviews are being carried out with a view to improve the standard and quality of care for people with learning disabilities. People with learning disabilities, their families and carers have been central to developing and delivering the programme.

The NHS Long Term Plan made a commitment to continue LeDeR and to improve the health and wellbeing of people with a learning disability. The new LeDeR policy aims to set out for the first time for the NHS the core aims and values of the LeDeR programme and the expectations placed on different parts of the health and social care system in delivering this work programme. It serves as a guide to professionals working in all parts of the health and social care system on their roles in delivering LeDeR.