A report from the Welsh NHS Confederation that highlights connections between the cost-of-living crisis and inequalities in Wales has been endorsed by Learning Disability Wales, along with 49 other third sector organisations in Wales

What is the Mind the Gap report about?

The Report, “Mind the gap: what’s stopping change? The cost-of-living crisis and the rise in inequalities in Wales”, has been produced by the Welsh NHS Confederation together with Royal College of Physicians.

‘Health Inequality’ here means how many health problems people have across different groups. For example, people from different backgrounds or in different areas have different levels of health problems compared to other groups.

We know that people with a learning disability are badly affected by health inequalities and have far worse life expectancies than the general population. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis, people with a learning disability had a much harder time accessing health care and other services that can improve their health. A prime example of this is the struggle that people with a learning struggle have in accessing health screenings and other medical services (page 72).

Now, this new report shows that the Covid 19 pandemic crisis has made health inequalities much worse for many people. This means that those who were already poor and struggling in Wales are now likely to be even worse off, with the ongoing cost of living crisis will have an even worse impact on them.

What does the report ask for?

The report calls on Welsh Government to carry out a set of specific things in order to address health inequalities in Wales. The report says that Welsh Government should:

  • prioritise closing the implementation gap on health and wellbeing for adults and children
  • provide more detailed guidance on implementation to local delivery bodies
  • map out existing activity on public health, inequalities, poverty reduction and social security
  • introduce health impact assessment regulations as a priority
  • consolidate commitments on inequality in one delivery plan to improve accountability
  • develop a shared set of performance measures focused on reducing inequalities
  • ensure that funding encourages collaboration and is linked to tackling inequalities
  • improve access to prevention programmes based in primary and community care, especially for those living in poverty
  • invest in innovative prevention including screening programmes, vaccines and wearable technology
  • improve access to high-quality, robust data to measure any change in inequalities
  • require regional partnership boards (RPBs) and public service boards (PSBs) to tackle inequalities

What else do we think is important?

At Learning Disability Wales, we fully endorse these recommendations. People with a learning disability deserve to have the same chances to live a full and happy life as everyone else. In addition to these recommendations, we therefore emphasise the need to implement annual health checks for people with a learning disability. We know from our own research that there was a disproportionate number of people with a learning disability who struggled to access healthcare during the pandemic. There is also ample evidence that annual health checks are effective in reducing the number of people with a learning disability who die of preventable diseases.

We also call on Welsh Government to take the implementation of the Learning Disability Educational Framework for Healthcare Staff. Too often people with a learning disability do not get the care they need, because health care staff are not trained in communicating with people with a learning disability. This new guidance will tackle some of the problems this causes.