Improving the health of adults with learning disabilities in Scotland and England

There are approximately 261,000 adults with learning disabilities in Scotland and England, with different patterns of, and more, health needs compared with other people. NHS services often are ill equipped to address their most prevalent problems, leading to substantially poorer health and premature deaths 20–25 years earlier than the general population; 40% of these premature deaths would have been amenable to care. University of Glasgow researchers in the University Centre for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities developed, trialled and implemented two interventions to address this community’s issue of barriers to accessing healthcare and improve the health and healthcare of adults with learning disabilities. First, annual health checks delivered in primary care improve health and provide substantial cost savings – this finding is now recommended in four UK clinical guidelines and quality standards and included in Scotland’s strategies: for learning disabilities (2015–2021) and mental health (2017–2027). Second, online training has enabled primary care staff in Scotland and England to deliver tailored psychological therapies for depression. One of these therapies was repurposed to support emotional wellbeing of people unable to access routine services during the coronavirus pandemic (video). This online training and related resources are provided free of charge to healthcare professionals in Scotland and England with access now expanded to users in the US, Canada and Australia.

Research funded by Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust R&DScottish Government and National Institute for Health Research.