Proactive community services could reduce use of psychiatric emergency department by people with learning disabilities


Researchers in Canada working with people with learning disabilities and mental health problems set out in this study to understand what happens when such individuals experience a psychiatric emergency. They looked at the experience of those people living with their families when such emergencies occurred, to consider what additional services families might need, including going to the emergency department (ED). The aim of the study was to identify the factors associated with use of the emergency department in 192 individuals who lived with family and experienced a psychiatric crisis.

They found that presence of psychiatric symptoms; a mild level of learning disability (as opposed to severe) a history of behaviour problems, psychiatric hospitalisation and history of use of the emergency department and a recent history of negative life events were all related to the use of the ED.

The authors believe that a better understanding of the factors that contribute to ED use might help to better develop services that work proactively to prevent visits to the ED when possible.

Individuals With Intellectual Disabilities Who Live With Family and Experience Psychiatric Crisis: Who Uses the Emergency Department and Who Stays Home? Weiss, J et al, in Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 4, 3, 158-171

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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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