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Equal access for all: working with people with learning disabilities

Jenny Tinkler launches a guide aiming to help people with learning disabilities obtain access to mainstream services.

Numerous national reports and policy initiatives over the last 30 years have stated that healthcare services should be for everyone. Yet people with a learning disability continue to be marginalised when it comes to accessing good healthcare from mainstream NHS services.

Physiotherapists working with people who have learning disabilities support the objectives of the policy document titled Building the Right Support that was released by NHS England last October.

The document’s nine principles cover how services will be expected to deliver care for people with learning disabilities. Principles six to eight are particularly relevant to physio staff as they refer to the requirement for people with a learning disability to have access to mainstream healthcare and support from mainstream community services. 

In Scotland, the 2014 Keys to life document sets out the requirements for improving the quality of life for people with a learning disability. It also upholds the principles of access to good quality mainstream health care and community services.

Members of Association of Chartered Physiotherapists for People with Learning Disabilities (ACPPLD) professional network aims to support our mainstream colleagues in meeting their obligations in this area. For more information, visit their website

Most people with a learning disability can access mainstream physiotherapy services when reasonable adjustments are made to help them to do so.

However, despite this there are still pockets of practice where this is not happening regularly. The consequence of this is that people with a learning disability continue to be disadvantaged in not having access to the right care, at the right time and in the right place. 

To help address this inequity ACPPLD members have written a guide for physiotherapists who don’t specialising in learning disabilities.

The guide will help you plan to support your next patient with a learning disability. 

It includes:

  • practical advice about preparing for an appointment
  • how to get the most out of appointments
  • a reminder on the importance of gaining consent (and the assumption that a person has capacity to give their consent unless an assessment indicates otherwise)
  • a prompt to use the skills and knowledge embedded in your local community learning disability team 

More information 

 Jenny Tinkler is chair, ACPPLD

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