Tommy Jessop is an award-winning actor, well known for his role as Terry Boyle in the TV series, ‘Line of Duty. Tommy also has Down’s Syndrome. He is keen to put the privilege of fame to good use and to tell the stories of people with learning disabilities. – “Being in Line of Duty made people listen more and I’ve had lots of invitations to speak up,” Tommy told BBC’s Panorama. “It is about time people really should start listening to us and see how we really feel. Our lives truly are worth living and medical care should be better for all of us.”
Tommy states that he has always had good care from the NHS, but that others like him have not been so fortunate. It’s a chilling statistic that people with a learning disability are more than twice as likely to die from avoidable causes than the rest of the population. They also have, on average, a 20-year shorter life expectancy. When the NHS reviewed the deaths of over 3,500 people with a learning disability, in nearly a third of cases there was no evidence of good practice.
Tommy wanted to meet some of the families affected and learn about the people behind these numbers. Parents, siblings and carers spoke movingly of the special people they’d lost, precious human beings who were often treated less well than they should have the right to expect. There were numerous instances of neglect, communication breakdown, and appropriate treatment not being offered.
Chloe died at only 27 years of age, after a catalogue of missteps at the Queen’s Hospital in Romford. In pain and agitated, Chloe was unable to articulate how she felt and was given morphine, which can cause breathing difficulties in people with her serious muscle condition, myotonic dystrophy. Resuscitation followed a cardiac arrest, after which she was moved to a general ward, where she passed away five days later. There were no specialist learning disability nurses involved in her care.