Access to healthcare for people with disabilities

September 12, 2017

The BMJ Open has published the results of a study into access to healthcare for people with disabilities. The aim of the study by the researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Chile was to investigate differences in access to healthcare between people with and without disabilities in the UK.

They were researching whether people with disabilities would be more likely to have unmet healthcare needs and whether there would be gender differences, with women more likely to report unmet needs.

The study found that people with a severe disability had higher odds of facing unmet needs. The largest gap was in ‘unmet need for mental healthcare due to cost’, where people with a severe disability were 4.5 times more likely to face a problem. Women with a disability were 7.2 times more likely to have unmet needs due to cost of care or medication, compared with men with no disability.

The researchers concluded that people with disabilities reported worse access to healthcare; with transportation, cost and long waiting lists being the main barriers. They say that these findings are worrying as they illustrate that a section of the population, who may have higher healthcare needs, faces increased barriers in accessing services.

Responding to the report into access to healthcare for people with disabilities, Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said, 'ADASS acknowledges this research which highlights the inequalities affecting people with disabilities and recognises the findings in this paper. In particular, we share concerns related to the exacerbation of healthcare need due to compounding factors, such as limited access to employment and the impact of poverty experienced by many people who have a disability.

'Whilst improvement in areas such as access to transport and buildings are important, ADASS supports the view that well-trained and disability-aware staff across the breadth of services can make a significant and positive difference to healthcare access.

'ADASS supports models of education where people who have disabilities can provide face-to-face training to people working in services. This helps people providing appointment booking, diagnosis, investigation and treatment to understand the unique needs that each person may have in our care system, and make the required adjustments to practice that can make a fundamental difference to individuals.'

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