BBC’s Casualty and leading, learning disabilities charity, Mencap have teamed up to bring a three-episode story arc to the show to highlight health inequalities that exist for people living with a learning disability.
The hit BBC One drama, Casualty is set to air the final part of a three-episode story arc, culminating on Saturday 18 April, which features the real life story of a mother and her son.
Aged 10, Alex Haslam, who has a learning disability, almost lost his life after he did not receive the right treatment in hospital due to his disability.
He says: “It is important to tell my story because it might save another child’s life, I hope that doctors will understand me and children like me better because it is on Casualty.”
Now, the producers behind Casualty have worked closely with learning disability charity, Mencap to help raise awareness of healthcare inequalities that exist for people living with a learning disability.
Unfortunately, 1,200 people with a learning disability die in hospital each year avoidably.
And Mencap has been working to improve knowledge on learning disabilities with medical professionals, and it is hoped the storyline in Casualty can further raise awareness to the wider community.
In a hospital setting, people with a learning disability may need to have a longer appointment, or have things explained in clear accessible language. In Alex’s case, it was important that the health team took time to understand his symptoms.
Following the true story and experiences of Angela Black and Alex, the team at Mencap worked with Angela to support the BBC team with researching and scripting of the storyline.
Angela says: “Having a seriously ill child in hospital is always traumatic, especially if they are very vulnerable, like Alex.
“The most important thing for parents to remember is that we are the experts in our children. Doctors and parents must work together so that doctors can understand our children better and make the reasonable adjustments our children need so they can get the healthcare they deserve.
“I really hope that the episodes of Casualty featuring Alex’s story will help doctors to understand that all people with a learning disability need to be treated as individuals and that parents and carers are an invaluable resource – we’re there to help them,” adds Angela.
“For any parent who is worried that their child isn’t getting the treatment they need, my advice is don’t be afraid to ask the doctors to change the way they do things. Just say and keep on saying.
“It is vitally important that our children’s voices are heard so they can get equal treatment in hospital.”
In the episodes, Howie (played by actor Stephen Thompson, who has a learning disability) and his mum Nicola (played by Catherine Ayers) are repeatedly turned away because the doctors don’t think that anything is wrong with Howie. But mum, Nicola, knows that, even though her son doesn’t express pain like other children do, something is seriously wrong.
Nicola takes drastic measures to get herself heard and has a chance encounter with Rash (played by Neet Mohan) which moves things forward.
The final of the story arc will be aired on BBC One this Saturday (18 April) at 8pm.
With 1.5 million people living with a learning disability, it is evident this storyline is critically important – especially in today’s current climate.
Leroy Binns, campaigns assistant at Mencap who has a learning disability and was involved in the research and scripting of the storyline, says: “I helped the Casualty production team by telling them about my work on Mencap’s Treat Me Well campaign and about my experiences in hospital.
“If doctors do not have a good understanding about learning disability and do not know about making reasonable adjustments it can be dangerous and can stop people with a learning disability, like me, from getting the right treatment.
“That’s why it is so important that healthcare professionals work with people with a learning disability and their family member or carer to make reasonable adjustments in hospital – especially if it is an emergency.”
TREAT ME WELL
Mencap has been working tirelessly to campaign for improved awareness and knowledge amongst medical professionals working with a patient who may have a learning disability.
Their Treat Me Well campaign hopes to transform how the NHS treats people with a learning disability in hospital.
Treat Me Well calls on NHS staff to make reasonable adjustments for people with a learning disability, to ensure everyone receives the right treatment.
You can follow the story and catch up on episodes on the BBC iPlayer here.