29 September 2017
Friends, family and carers of women with learning disabilities are being urged to help ensure that they have regular breast screenings.
It follows the latest NHS data* which shows that significant numbers of women with learning disabilities in Devon did not have a breast screening during 2016.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and women with a learning disability are the least likely to attend screenings, even though it can save their life.
During October, local authorities, charities and health providers are joining forces to raise awareness among carers, friends and family to increase the number of women attending breast screenings.
Recent NHS figures show that, depending where they live, between 10 and 20 per cent fewer women with learning disabilities in Devon had a breast screening last year when compared with other women.
In the NHS South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area almost half (45.5 per cent) of women with a learning disability did not have a breast screening.
And in the area covered by the NHS Northern, Eastern, Western CCG, over a third (36.5 per cent) of women with a learning disability in 2016 did not have a screening.
The latest NHS data shows a decrease in the screenings all age groups nationally in both patients with and without a learning disability.
Women aged 65 to 69 with a learning disability had the largest decrease, from 54.6 per cent in 2014-15 to 52.3 per cent in 2015-16.
People with a learning disability should be encouraged to register on their GP’s learning disability register, which will enable them to access more support.
This includes extra time for appointments, accessible ‘easy read’ information and an annual health check.
Dr Guy Bradley-Smith, GP and lead for Learning Disability for NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
"It is good to know that in both the NEW Devon and SDT CCG areas the number of eligible women with a learning disability getting breast screening done is greater than the national average of 51 per cent.
"However, every woman needs to take up the offer of breast screening in order to prevent possible serious disease.
"Information about this screening is available in ‘easy read’ format, and both learning disability community nurses and GPs can explain more about the procedure. It appears embarrassing, but it is so much better than becoming unwell."
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said:
“Too many women with a learning disability miss out on getting the very best healthcare. This could be because of fear, embarrassment or not knowing enough about the process.
“One of the priorities in our Transforming Care Plan is ensuring that people with a learning disability are on their GP’s learning disability register and receive regular breast screenings, and we need the help of carers, friends, family and loved ones to help us achieve this and save lives.”