Audit findings lead to improvements in recognising and responding to pain in people with learning disabilities


This article reports the findings of an audit carried out in Surrey to look at pain recognition and management with people with learning disabilities.

The authors looked at what people with learning disabilities understood and experienced when they had pain, compared to what was reported as good practice in the literature.

The authors found that people with learning disabilities struggled to discuss pain effectively. They found little use of available communication aids. They found that people with learning disabilities had to rely on others to deal with their pain.

In common with other studies, the authors found that the most response to pain was to refer the person to the doctor. People were often not offered pain control medication by staff and other non- medication strategies to manage pain were rarely offered.

The authors report that staff in Surrey have been using the results of the audit to develop accessible information booklets on pain recognition and management to be used by people with disabilities, their paid supporters and family members. Organisations have also been developing and rolling out training for staff on recognising and responding to pain.

‘I Feel Pain’– audit of communication skills and understanding of pain and health needs with people with learning disabilities Beacroft, M. & Dodd, K.  in  British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 139–147.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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