Go back to basics in care

Theresa May has urged the NHS to revolutionise health outcomes by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to enable early cancer diagnosis.

Friday, 1st June 2018, 1:00 pm

Whilst it’s important to embrace the power that AI has to improve health outcomes, we have to go back to basics and ensure that, as a minimum standard, GPs have access to the right training and support to care for patients with learning disabilities.

Often left in the dark when it comes to healthcare policy, people with learning disabilities experience striking inequalities when it comes to cancer screenings.

For these patients, the relationship with their GP is incredibly important. Having a positive GP experience – sometimes just a few extra minutes in an appointment – can make all the difference in cancer diagnosis.

Just 19 per cent of eligible women with learning disabilities and autism have had a cervical cancer screening compared with 73 per cent of the general population – a gap of 54 per cent. Women with learning disabilities and autism are also 10 per cent less likely to have the recommended three-yearly breast screening.

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Cancer screenings are a crucial part of public health, but people with learning disabilities are routinely missing out.

We know from speaking with people with learning disabilities and their GPs that more training and support is urgently needed to ensure GPs can meet the needs of their patients and decrease the diagnosis gap.

AI is one solution, but is not the only solution.

Considering the least invasive route for tests, and taking the time to explain these tests and preparing someone for a procedure, sometimes over months, can make the difference between spotting cancer, or the potential for cancer, early and spotting it too late.

It is estimated that by 2033, AI could help prevent 22,000 cancer deaths each year. We hope that people with autism and learning disabilities are recognised in this calculation, and that the Government recognises the urgent need to support our GPs, as well as harness AI.

Alicia Wood

Head of Public Affairs at Dimensions