People with learning disabilities in rural settings in Scotland are not doubly disadvantaged accessing healthcare


Research has consistently shown that access to healthcare services is poor for adults with learning disabilities and for those people who live in rural areas.

The researchers in this study set out to find out whether adults with learning disabilities who lived in rural areas were at a double disadvantage.

They looked at data from 39 rural and 633 urban participants in Scotland, collecting information from both face-to-face interviews and from notes kept in primary care.

They found that the sample of people from rural areas had significantly more contact with primary and secondary health care

They also found that contact with allied healthcare professionals (physiotherapists, Occupational therapists etc) was not significantly different. People in the rural sample were however more likely to have had recent contact with a dentist and an optician.

The authors conclude that their original idea that people in rural settings may have been at a disadvantage when it came to accessing healthcare was not found to be the case.

Access to healthcare services by people with intellectual disabilities: A rural-urban comparison, Nicholson L & Cooper, S in Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 15, 2, 115-130

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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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