Supporting the Physical Health Needs of People with Learning Disabilities


A handbook for professionals, support staff and families

The handbook focuses on how clinicians should adapt to meet the healthcare needs to an individual’s learning disability.


It has long been known that people with learning disabilities have poorer health than the¬ general population, but the extent of these differences becomes striking when considering the evidence of reduced life expectancy. In 2013 the Confidential Inquiry into the Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities reported that men typically die 13 years younger and women 20 years younger than the general population. In 42% of cases the death was considered premature.

The reasons for this lower life expectancy are varied but what we do know is this group are two and a half times more likely to have multiple health needs than other people, and often have difficulties accessing health services or receiving appropriate treatment from clinicians.

As well as looking at the challenges of accessing healthcare and navigating care pathways, this -handbook presents a practical guide to the most common conditions and health needs, with chapters written by experts in those conditions and their relationship to learning disabilities. A range of issues are covered, including mental health, cancer, epilepsy, respiratory and swallowing problems, and poor sight and hearing.

The book aims to increase awareness and knowledge of how these conditions and issues present themselves, as well as how they can be prevented in the first place, and best practice in assessment and treatment. It will therefore be a valuable resource for families, support workers and health professionals.

I think this is a really useful introduction to a number of topic areas for students. There are many complex needs of people with learning disabilities that nursing students will need to consider during their course and this text makes a good starting point in terms of how to support these needs. It is a practical and engaging text interspersed with case studies, allowing the reader to consider how interventions can be applied in practice. There is a good range of topic areas including supporting individuals in hospitals with a ’Good Practice Checklist’ for Acute Care Admission. This text will be beneficial for all fields of nursing, not just the Learning Disability field. It is also commendable to see included perspectives from service users and carers.
(Fiona Rich, Senior Lecturer & Tutor for Learning Disability Nursing at Birmingham City University)



This handbook is for healthcare professionals and support staff to help them when diagnosing, treating and caring for people with a learning disability.

Supporting the Physical Health Needs of People with Learning Disabilities is also valuable to families of people with a learning disability to help them ensure their loved ones receive the best and most appropriate health care.


ISBN: 9781910366257
Publication: 17 November 2016


Part I: Health inequalities

Chapter 1: Reasonable adjustments

Sue Turner

Chapter 2: Promoting health equality: health inequalities and people with learning disabilities

Gwen Moulster, Crispin Hebron, Phil Boulter and Dave Atkinson

Chapter 3: Improving hospital experiences: working with wards for better outcomes

Miriam Marsham and Jane Hart

Chapter 4: People with learning disabilities, the NHS and primary care

Mark Bradley

Chapter 5: Health promotion for people with learning disabilities

Lisa Hanna-Trainor, Laurence Taggart and Wendy Cousins

Chapter 6: The Mental Capacity Act (2005)

Steve Hardy, Lesley Brown and Theresa Joyce

Part II: Common conditions

Chapter 7: Respiratory illness

Daniel Marsden and Sally Wilson

Chapter 8: Cardiology

Daniel Marsden and Sally Wilson

Chapter 9: Diabetes in people with learning disabilities

Maria Truesdale and Laurence Taggart

Chapter 10: Mental health and mental well-being

Eddie Chaplin and Karina Marshall-Tate

Chapter 11: Caring for the person with epilepsy and learning disability

Anthony Holland

Chapter 12: Cancer

Peter Woodward

Chapter 13: Gastrointestinal disorders

Peter Woodward

Chapter 14: End of life care

Renee Francis, Eddie Chaplin and Karina Marshall-Tate

Chapter 15: Dysphagia

Lesley Brown

Chapter 16: Visual impairment, hearing loss and learning disabilities

Mark Gray

Chapter 17: Postural care

Sarah Clayton

Part III: Service users, carers and family

Chapter 18: Meeting the health needs of people with learning disabilities: working together with families

Hayley Goleniowska

Chapter 19: Through our eyes: what parents want for their children from health professionals

Jim Blair and parents


Steve Hardy, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust 
Eddie Chaplin, London South Bank University 
Peter Woodward, Greenwich University


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