Better access to mental health services for people with learning disabilities needed says NHS report

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Earlier this year, the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) carried out some research into ‘reasonable adjustments’ being  made to mental health services to enable people with autism and people with learning disabilities to have equal access and effective treatment

This NHS Confederation briefing sets out the key findings from this study and identifies what can be done to make improvements.

The study found considerable variations in the treatment that people with learning disabilities or autism received from mental health services across England. The NDTi received a range of contributions from stakeholders by email and phone, and through meetings held with people who use services

Along with highlighting some good practice, for example, specialist learning disability or autism services facilitating access to mainstream mental health services rather than setting up separate specialist services and working flexibly in organisational procedures and professional practice. However they also identified some significant service failures. .

Key points from the study suggest

  • Providers should put in place reasonable adjustments to make it easier for learning disabled or autistic people to use and access services.
  • Health checks at the GP surgery should include mental health state
  • Information about medication should be made available in accessible  formats
  • Commissioners and local authorities need to work with health and wellbeing boards to plan integrated services that meet the needs of those with autism or learning disabilities.

Equally accessible? making mental health services more accessible for learning disabled or autistic people,  NHS Confederation Mental Health Network


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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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