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Senior north Cumbria health chief believes action on learning disabilities is needed

A senior north Cumbria Health Chief believes a shift in focus is needed to ensure those with learning disabilities are not forgotten.

Peter Rooney was responding to a hard-hitting report by Healthwatch Cumbria, which showed the barriers currently in place across the county.

Mr Rooney accepted that, at present, not enough is being done to support those with Learning disabilities - who have a much lower life expectancy, locally and nationally, than those without.

The Cumbria Health Scrutiny Committee yesterday received a presentation about the 'What Does a Good Life Look Like' report, followed by extensive discussion.

Copeland Councillor Chris Whiteside said he was concerned about the differences in life-expectancy, and asked what was being done to ensure the physical health of those with learning disabilities is given higher priority.

Mr Rooney, Chief Operating Officer at North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said a real shift in focus was needed.

He said in recent years, they have ‘gone backwards' instead of forwards in some areas when it came to addressing health inequalities.

Mr Rooney said he and other NHS colleagues are keen to change that - but said it needs to be addressed from a much wider perspective.

“People come in to the health service and local government to make things better, but the regulatory regime that surrounds us focuses on other things,” he said.

Mr Rooney said in his career he has experienced a lot of scrutiny about A&E targets, bed-blocking and other high-profile issues - but virtually no scrutiny about what is being done to improve life expectancy of those with learning disabilities.

“As we build a new strategy for north Cumbria, we want to have a major focus on these issues while maintaining a focus on statutory targets.

“We need to ask, are we delivering the outcomes for everyone that they should be entitled to? This is a longer term conversation.

“If we can get this right for people with learning disabilities, we will get it right for everyone. There is a lot for us to Learn here" he added.

Published by the News & Star

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