Intended for healthcare professionals


Meeting the needs of patients with learning disabilities

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 29 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3421
  1. Sheila Hollins, emeritus professor and president, BMA1,
  2. Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, senior research fellow in nursing2
  1. 1St George’s University of London, London SW170RE, UK
  2. 2St George’s University of London and Kingston University, London, UK
  1. president{at}

A recent inquiry highlights failings in the delivery of care to this vulnerable group

In March 2013, the Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities reviewed the deaths of 247 people with learning disabilities over a two year period, as well as 58 comparator cases of adults without learning disabilities.1 It found that men with learning disabilities died on average 13 years earlier than men in the general population, and that this figure was 20 years for women. Overall, 22% of people with learning disabilities were under the age of 50 when they died, compared with 9% of the general population. Premature deaths in the comparator group were largely due to lifestyle factors, whereas those for people with learning disabilities were mostly due to delays or problems with investigating, diagnosing, and treating illnesses and with receiving appropriate care.

These results are alarming but not surprising. There is a remarkable degree of coherence and agreement with the findings and recommendations arising from previous work. These include inquiries,2 3 research studies,4 5 surveys and reports published by charities and interdisciplinary advisory groups (such as the group that created the charity Mencap’s “Getting it Right” charter),6 7 8 and statements and guidance by …

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