Stornoway conference will present Western Isles learning disability project

A Western Isles project that has developed ways to improve services for people with learning disabilities will be showcased at a conference in Stornoway this week.

The Scottish Government will host the conference to share the work of the NHS Western Isles Learning Disabilities Collaborative Project.

Leaders in the field of learning disability from across Scotland will learn about the scheme, which aims to address some of the health inequalities that people with learning disabilities can be exposed to.

The aim of the conference, at Stornoway Town Hall on November 5th, is to discuss how the changes introduced in the Western Isles are rolled out across Scotland.

The Western Isles Collaborative Project was launched in 2010.

A number of groups, including people with learning disabilities, gave their views and experiences of accessing health services, and ideas for how they could be improved.

And a number of improvements have since been implemented as a result of the feedback, including staff training on communications, easy read information leaflets, and the production of a communications toolkit for use in clinical areas.

Some of the key developments that will be presented to the conference are:

Communications training and the communications handbook

The role of the Learning Disabilities Link Worker

More focus on early detection and health assessments

The importance of Health Promotion and Health Information

The development of electronic referral and tracking systems

Adults with Incapacity Act training

The importance of a healthy lifestyle and inclusion in sport.

The principle behind the Western Isles project was that people with learning disabilities should have the same rights when accessing healthcare services as everyone else.

To achieve this, the aims of the project were to train and develop local healthcare staff and services to recognise, prepare and implement measures to address the unique needs of people with a learning disability.

This included the right to make informed choices about their care, and the right to have their information and communication needs met effectively.

The Western Isles Stand Up for Yourself Advocacy Group, whose membership is made up of people with a learning disability, was involved from the outset of the project.

Members of the group presented their personal experiences and explained the issues they face when using health care services, to NHS staff and managers, at a meeting early in the development of the project.

They highlighted issues important to them and identified key areas to address. These included how professionals treated and communicated with them as individuals when visiting the hospital, medical appointments, confidentiality, accident and emergency and medicine information.

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health and conference chairperson, said: “We are delighted to have been approached by the Scottish Government to host this event.

“It will allow us to share the excellent progress that has been made in the Western Isles in moving forward the rights of people with learning disabilities and their health, and help other areas to advance their practice.”

Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, said: “People with learning disabilities have different health needs from the general population and this can lead to greater health inequalities.

“The Western Isles collaborative is an excellent piece of work which looks to address some of these health inequalities and has the interests of people with learning disabilities at its heart.

“It has looked at the particular challenges faced by them, and has come up with some innovative and creative ways to improve their quality of life.

“I’m keen that these lessons are spread more widely, and the upcoming conference will be an ideal way to spread the message throughout Scotland.”