Disability Royal Commission releases report into Health care and services for people with a cognitive disability

The Disability Royal Commission has released its report into health care and services for people with a cognitive disability, eight months after the related hearings took place in Sydney from 18 – 28 February 2020.

The report found that people with cognitive disability have been, and continue to be, subject to neglect in the Australian health system.

During the Sydney hearings, evidence was heard from 38 witnesses, including: people with cognitive disability, parents, siblings, carers and support persons of people with cognitive disability, advocates, experts, medical professionals and representatives of government departments and agencies.

The Commissioners heard that some people with disability felt ignored and disregarded by the health care system, whilst others described positive experiences, suggesting the Australian health system can respond to the complex physical, psychological and communication requirements of people with cognitive disability.

The Disability Royal Commission’s report into ’Health care and services for people with a cognitive disability’, highlights the importance of a ‘person-centred approach’ in addressing the health needs of people with disability.

It emphasises the need for better training of health care professionals, reduction of distress and trauma, better integration between the health and disability sector, and better communication and information sharing, as ways to improve access to the system for people with intellectual disability and autism.

Other key themes include:

  • Quality of the health care received
  • Attitudes, assumptions, and culture; communication and information sharing
  • Lifetime health care
  • Collection of data and research
  • The need for initiatives to improve health care

In its report, the Royal Commission found evidence suggesting health standards set out in the United Nation’s ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (CRPD), have often not been met, and that there continue to be problems in the delivery of health care and services to people with cognitive disability in Australia.

The Royal Commission heard that a relationship of trust, confidence, and respect between a person with cognitive disability and the medical practitioners who provide them with care and treatment is very important, as it is for all people.

The Royal Commission also heard that there is a need for independent advocacy services for people with cognitive disability, and their families, to support them to navigate the health system.

For more information, including an AUSLAN interpreted version of the report into ‘Health care and services for people with a cognitive disability’, please visit the Disability Royal Commission website.