Learning disability physios have set out what’s needed to provide successful physiotherapy to adults with a learning disability.
‘It is important that all physiotherapy staff have an awareness of the role of the specialist learning disability physiotherapist,’ said Association of Chartered Physiotherapists For People With Learning Disabilities (ACPPLD) national executive member Sarah Bruce, ‘and that they able to access specialist learning disability physiotherapy services locally to support successful physio outcomes for adults with a learning disability.’
There are a number of factors that predispose adults with a learning disability to developing physiotherapy-related needs, Ms Bruce said, and as a result they are likely to require access to physiotherapy at some point in their lifetime.
‘They have the same rights to access mainstream physiotherapy services as the general population but may require adjustments to facilitate positive access and outcomes.’
Most adults with a learning disability will be able to access mainstream services with reasonable adjustments.
Some individuals will require adjustments that go beyond what is reasonable and possible for mainstream services and will require access to specialist learning disability services.
Often services will need to work in collaboration and combine their specialist knowledge and skills to deliver successful outcomes, said Ms Bruce.
Her colleague at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, David Standley said that specialist learning disability physios had an ‘essential’ role to play in supporting the health and wellbeing of adults with a learning disability
‘Despite this, there are wide variations in the provision of specialist learning disability physiotherapy across the United Kingdom which has impacted on the physiotherapy management of adults with a learning disability,’ Mr Standley said.
In response, the ‘Standards of Practice for Physiotherapists working with adults with a learning disability’ have been launched to improve and standardise the delivery and commissioning of specialist physiotherapy services.
- provide a definition of the role of the specialist learning disability physiotherapist
- provide best practice guidance that outlines and directs the essential roles of the specialist learning disability physiotherapist to improve the physiotherapy health outcomes for all adults with a learning disability
- explore the adjustments that specialist learning disability physiotherapists make to provide successful physiotherapy to adults with a learning disability that go beyond what is reasonable for mainstream services
- raise awareness of the role of the specialist learning disability physiotherapist to commissioners, service managers and mainstream health and social care professionals, to ensure that adults with a learning disability have access to specialist physiotherapy.
The standards were developed through two years of research and development in collaboration with the ACPPLD membership. Their website includes the main document, executive summaries from carers and professionals, and a range of toolkits and supporting document to help implement the standards.
For specialist learning disability physiotherapy service leads and physiotherapists to deliver the definition it is essential that they:
- Are accessible and equitable to all adults with a learning disability and a physiotherapy need that cannot be met successfully by mainstream services even when reasonable adjustments are made
- Are based on clinical need, not on an assumed level of a person’s learning disability
- Make specialist adjustments required to provide successful physiotherapy to adults with a learning disability that go beyond what is reasonable and possible for mainstream services
- Support positive access to and responses from mainstream physiotherapy and relevant healthcare services including supporting making reasonable adjustments
- Develop links; open lines of communication; and direct referral pathways with local health and social care services critical to the delivery of physiotherapy services to adults with a learning disability
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