Preventing deaths from choking in people with learning disabilities
Friday, 26 October 2012
Just a few simple steps could reduce the risk of people with learning disabilities dying from choking - that's the conclusion of a multi-agency review carried out by the Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board.
Although people with learning disabilities have some of the highest risks of dying from choking, there is no national information collected on this issue and the scale of the problem is unknown. The multi-agency review followed the deaths from choking of five people with learning disabilities in Hampshire between 2005 and 2010 and is aimed at all those working on commissioning or providing services for this group.
Identifying those most at risk and taking some simple precautions to prevent choking - based on common sense and good practice - are among the recommendations in the report which include:
- supporting adults with a learning disability to take up annual health checks and attend a dentist for regular check ups
- ensuring there are sufficient speech and language therapy resources in the community to respond to requests for assessments
Cllr Felicity Hindson, Executive Member for Adult Services at Hampshire County Council said: "I welcome this review into an important issue for those commissioning and providing care for people with learning disabilities. Poor oral health is a key contributory factor in choking, which is a significant risk for this vulnerable group. By trying to understand why, and looking at what we can do in Hampshire to improve the outcomes, we have arrived at a number of recommendations.
"These simple strategies can be used to identify people at risk of choking, ensure they have access to dental and medical checks to keep healthy and that staff are trained to deal with choking risks, including first aid. We are also recommending that commissioners ensure the right placements are found with providers who can work with individuals to manage their risks, and that sufficient speech and language therapy is available in the community to meet the needs of people requiring specialist assessment.
"Throughout this review it has become clear there is no national collection of data in relation to choking deaths as well as no clear understanding of the issue. Yet we have discovered that choking is a regular cause of death among this vulnerable group. The National Patient Safety Agency carried out some work in this area in 2007 but this is now out of date. That is why the Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board is calling on the Department of Health to collect this information to help understand the situation and seek to tackle it."
The work was carried out by Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board on behalf of:
Hampshire County Council
Portsmouth City Council
Southampton City Council
Isle of Wight Council
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
Solent NHS Partnership Trust