Women with learning disabilities urged to make their voices heard

April 28, 2021

Women with learning disabilities are being urged to respond to the call for evidence that will shape the first-ever Government-led Women’s Health Strategy, to ensure health services are meeting the needs of women.

An easy read version of the call for evidence has been launched, with the aim of encouraging more women with learning disabilities to share their experiences of the health and care system.

The six core themes included in the call for evidence are:

  • Placing women’s voices at the centre of their health and care: How the health and care system engages with and listens to women at the individual level as well as at the system level.
  • Improving the quality and accessibility of information and education on women’s health: Women having access to high-quality information when they need to make a decision, increasing health literacy, as well as increasing awareness and understanding of women’s health conditions among clinicians.
  • Ensuring the health and care system understands and is responsive to women’s health and care needs across the life course: Supporting women to maximise their health across their lives, and ensuring services are designed to maximise benefits for women.
  • Maximising women’s health in the workplace: Deepening our understanding of how women’s health issues can affect their workforce participation and outcomes, both with regards to female-specific issues such as the menopause, but also conditions that are more prevalent in women such as musculoskeletal conditions, depression or anxiety.
  • Ensuring research, evidence and data support improvements in women’s health: Inclusion of women and women’s health in research and data collection and how that information is used, and driving participation in clinical trials to support improvements in women’s health
  • Understanding and responding to the impacts of Covid-19 on women’s health: Supporting women through the unique challenges they’ve faced during the pandemic.

There are approximately 1.2 million people with a learning disability in England, many of whom experience health inequalities as a result of their condition as well as having commonly associated health conditions including mental health problems, dementia, epilepsy, and being underweight or overweight.

On average women with a learning disability die 27 years earlier than those without. Some examples of other health inequalities include, in 2019/20, just 33.6% of eligible women with a learning disability had an adequate smear test, compared to 68% without a learning disability and only half of the eligible women with a learning disability had been screened for breast cancer, compared to 65% of eligible patients without a learning disability.

Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and is the Big Plan Engagement Lead at the learning disability charity Mencap, said, ‘Having accessible information means the world to people with a learning disability and helps us be a part of society. It’s great that this consultation is an easy read. The Government now must listen to what women with a learning disability say and make sure that the new plan gets it right for them.

‘I encourage other women with a learning disability to participate in the Women’s Health Strategy. It is very important that we have our voices heard because we have rights like anyone else. I want women to be treated equally and have access to good healthcare. If we come together and raise our issues, we can change our lives for the better.’

The easy read version is now available as an online survey, or in print format for those who need it.

Michael Fullerton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Achieve together, says now is the time to empower, not marginalise, people with learning disabilities.  


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