GP Zone

Learning disabilities

Why is working with people with learning disabilities important?

People with learning disabilities have a shorter life expectancy and increased risk of early death when compared to the general population. 

The risk of children being reported by their main carer (usually their mother) to have fair/poor general health is 2.5 to 4.5 times greater for children with learning disabilities when compared to their non-disabled peers.

Outcomes for adults are also worse with one in seven adults with learning disabilities rating their general health as not good. 

GPs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly count the number of people with learning disabilities. They say that they see about 2,400 people with learning disabilities. Cornwall Council's register of people with learning disabilities receiving a service is similar in size. 

People with learning disabilities who have additional complex needs require specialist services that are close to their homes, preventing the need for hospital admissions when possible. 

What is being done? 

There are known challenges in access to health care for people with learning disabilities. Actions to address these challenges are in place locally and some of the work includes: 

  • Annual health checks for people with learning disabilities run by GP practices and facilitated by Primary Care liaison nurses.
  • The learning disability screening nursing team helps people get access to NHS screening programmes, such as breast screening and diabetic retinopathy.
  • The two acute hospitals that serve Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly both employ liaison nursing teams to ensure that individuals have good access and equitable treatment.
  • Engagement of professionals, family carers and individuals with a lived experience of learning disability, through our Big Health Group and our Transforming Care Partnership
  • Production of a range of health information materials, including a series of DVDs covering access to various health areas.

What else is planned?

Service users and carers continue to raise issues and identify ways to improve services and this information is used as part of the regular planning process. NHS Kernow, alongside Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly, have formed a Transforming Care Partnership to address the needs of individuals with learning disabilities and / or autism who have additional needs related to their behaviour.