Crippen learns that NHS still using offensive language

Welcome to the 21st Century folks, or not, as is the case with the people responsible for collecting statistics of patients attending NHS hospitals across England. Believe it or not NHS Digital are still using the term ‘mental retardation’ when describing people with intellectual/learning disabilities.

Their excuse is that they’ve been following the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization (WHO), although these guidelines were changed some time ago to remove this offensive terminology. When told about this update, NHS Digital said that it was not possible to use the updated classification system in the most recent statistics, because it was not available for the whole time period the publication covers. Oh, that’s alright then (not!).

Ciara Lawrence, who has a learning disability and is the engagement lead at the learning disability charity Mencap, said the terminology used in the statistics was:

“unacceptable and describe people like me as a second-class citizen, with no value to society. It’s insulting and truly shocks me. People with a learning disability face significant barriers and discrimination when it comes to accessing healthcare, and words like this show how far we still have to go, to reach equality.”

Gemma Hope, the director of policy at Leonard Cheshire is reported to have said that she was ‘disappointed’ with the NHS. So don’t worry Doug Paulley, Leonard Cheshire have got your back on this one!

It’s understood that the WHO changed this language on January 1, 2022 (ICD-11) and it is expected it will be adopted by members within the next five years. (You just can’t make this stuff up can you?!)

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is a Doctor’s surgery with a white male doctor sitting at a desk and his receptionist standing alongside of him. She is gesturing towards the open door through which can be seen a young child with an intellectual/learning disability holding the hand of a female adult. On the floor in front of the desk is a large sheet of paper with ‘Outdated classification of disability – World Health Organisation’. The doctor is saying: “I’ll see the retard next Miss Jones!”

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