Three-quarters of people with a learning disability are not currently on the general practice learning disability register, a new report published today by the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) has suggested.

MPs on the cross-party committee warned that people with a learning disability and autistic people faced significant health inequalities, including an ‘unacceptable level of premature and avoidable deaths’.

Within its report – Inequalities in healthcare and employment for people with a learning disability and autistic people’ – the WEC concluded that ‘overall care and outcomes too often still fall below acceptable standards’.

Patients on the learning disability register are entitled to receive reasonable adjustments, such as support with making decisions, and access to an annual health check, through their GP practice.

But the WEC said that around 75% of people with a learning disability are not currently on the register, while ‘many struggle to convince their GP and practice staff to add them to the register’.

The committee has now called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England to work with national and local learning disability organisations and charities, and the Royal College of GPs to ‘investigate why eligible people are not on the learning disability register and take appropriate action to increase registration’.

It said this was an ‘immediate priority’ and that this work should include an assessment of the reasons why eligible people who have applied to be on the register have been denied access to it and a review of the existing guidance for GPs to ensure it captures all those who are eligible for registration, added the committee.

And it said that the government 'should develop and launch an awareness raising campaign to encourage people to ask their GP to be put on the learning disability register', adding that 'the campaign should be appropriately tailored to deliver increased registration among underrepresented communities'.

Among other recommendations, the government was also urged to ‘re-establish a national board with a focus on improving health inequalities for people with a learning disability and autistic people across all health and social care services’.

WEC chair Caroline Nokes said: ‘It is deeply concerning to see that health inequalities continue to be significant among people with learning disabilities and autism, including an unacceptable level of premature and avoidable deaths compared to the general population.

‘The committee heard from people who struggled to convince their GP to put them on the learning disability register and only achieved success once the media and politicians were involved.

‘They should not have to reach that point, and not everyone will feel empowered to argue their case or have access to such advocacy to assist them. The system has to work better to ensure all people with a learning disability have access to good healthcare.’

Last year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) called for training on learning disabilities and autism to be made compulsory for all pharmacists in England, given their prominent place in the healthcare system and their role in medicines safety.

This came as the RPS responded to the government’s consultation on the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training on Learning Disability and Autism code of practice, following the 2016 death of a young autistic teenager with a mild learning disability who had a severe reaction to medication which he and his family had asked for him not to receive.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister title Nursing in Practice.