The following criteria should be universally recognised and accepted as basic standards of adequate health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
1. Optimal availability and accessibility to mainstream health services with primary care physicians playing a central role. This means that people with intellectual disabilities will:
I. Use mainstream health services.
II. Receive more time for consultations in the clinic or in home visits, when needed.
III. Receive adequate support in communication, when needed.
IV. Receive a proactive approach to their health needs.
V. Have no extra financial, physical or legislative barriers to use mainstream services.
VI. Be able to participate in screening programmes, in the same way as anybody else.
VII. Be supported in achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that will prevent illness and encourage positive health outcomes.
VIII. Receive understandable information about health and health promotion (also available to family and carers).
IX. Receive health care with good cooperation and co-ordination between different professionals.
2. Health professionals (especially physicians, psychiatrists, dentists, nurses and allied professionals) in mainstream health services will have competencies in intellectual disabilities and therefore in some of the more specific health problems in people with intellectual disabilities. This will require that:
I. Health professionals have a responsibility to achieve competencies in the basic standards of health care for people with intellectual disabilities.
II. These competencies include the awareness that not all the health problems of people with intellectual disability are caused by their disability.
III. All training programs for health professionals pay attention to intellectual disabilities, including the most common aetiology, some frequent syndromes, aetiology-related health problems, communication, legal and ethical aspects.
IV. Training in attitude and communicational skills is as important as clinical skills and therefore is part of the training programs.
V. Guidelines on specific health issues are available through Internet, CD-ROM or otherwise.
VI. Health care professionals in mainstream services have easy access to and are able to get advice from specialist colleagues without extra financial, practical or legislative barriers.
3. Health professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, dentists, nurses and allied professionals) who are specialised in the specific health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities are available as a back-up to mainstream health services. These professionals can advise, treat specific medical problems or take over (a part of) the medical care for people with intellectual disabilities. This will require that:
I. Training Programmes are available for health professionals who want to gain competencies in health issues of people with intellectual disabilities.
II. These specialists create and maintain networks with specialised colleagues in and outside of their own profession, in order to improve their knowledge and skills. This can be achieved by personal contacts or by creating (virtual) centres of expertise.
III. Research on health issues of people with intellectual disabilities is stimulated in co-operation with academic centres. Academic Chairs in Intellectual Disability Medicine should be created to initiate, stimulate and coordinate research projects.
4. Health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities often needs a multidisciplinary approach.
I. Specific health assessments and/or treatments need co-ordination between different health professionals (eg. visual and hearing impairment, mental health care, care for people with multiple and complex disabilities, care for the elderly, rehabilitation care). …