Families of people with learning disabilities in out of area placements feel uninvolved and concerned about lack of improvements


People with learning disabilities and complex needs can often find themselves in services far from their family homes, particularly the case if the person has a mental health problem. This study set out to find out the views of family members of those people who were being cared for in out-of-area psychiatric hospitals. The authors were particularly concerned to explore the issue of the provision of culturally appropriate services.

The researchers interviewed sixteen family members to explore their views. The team were able to transcribe and analyse the responses to identify the key themes.

Amongst the views expressed, a number emerged as important to the respondents, including, a feeling of shame, concerns about the safety of their family member, concerns that cultural needs were not well understood and were not being appropriately met and a concern that despite the specialist nature of the support that was being offered,  a lack of any real signs of improvement in the condition of their family member.  A major theme was a feeling of lack of involvement in the process of planning and delivery of care.

The authors conclude that family members hold a number of negative views about their experiences of out of area placements, but that these views could be used as a guide to those areas where significant quality improvement could take place in inpatient services.

People with intellectual disabilities in out-of-area specialist hospitals: What do families think? Bonell S et al, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 389–397

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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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