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A research round-up for Learning Disability Week

20 Jun 24

It’s Learning Disability Week and a chance to look at some of the recent research from HPFT focussed on improving the experience of those with learning disabilities.

HPFT Deputy Medical Director, Dr Indermeet Sawhney, was the lead author of the recently published article: Improving reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities in mental health tribunals (rcni.com)

By considering the views of both people with learning disabilities and psychiatrists, the research identified opportunities to improve the reasonable adjustments made in tribunal hearings, leading to national changes such as implementing breaks, providing decisions in easy-read formats, and improving communication methods.

These adjustments not only empower people with learning disabilities but also advocate for a more equitable and fairer healthcare system.

In our inpatient services, Trust pharmacist, Reena Tharian, and colleagues have had their research in oral health issues published: Anticholinergic adverse effects and oral health - The Pharmaceutical Journal (pharmaceutical-journal.com)

Many service users in learning disability services are on medication which can increase the risk of side effects related to oral health such as dry mouth, gum disease, tooth decay, infections and difficulties swallowing. These can all lead to a range of serious health consequences.

The research has shown what a crucial role pharmacists have in advising service users and prescribers about prevention, early identification and treatment of these oral side effects.

RADiANT Network Manager and Research Associate, Verity Chester, has worked with people with learning disabilities who attend the Trust’s physical health clinic to explore hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism – where your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones – can cause physical, cognitive, and psychiatric symptoms. However, once diagnosed, treatment can significantly improve quality of life. Verity’s research found that 9% of the service users involved had hypothyroidism, as compared to 2% in the general population.

The study has shown that effective diagnosis and management of hypothyroidism in those with learning disabilities is therefore crucial and highlights a need for increased awareness and future research focus in this area.

New research helping people living with diabetes and a learning disability is currently underway.

People living with a learning disability are more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes and are sometimes less likely to have access to the support that would help them to manage their condition, meaning the diabetes often starts at a younger age and leads to other health problems. 

HPFT Consultant Psychiatrist, Professor Regi Alexander, is supporting Professor Laurence Taggart who is leading the research project “My Diabetes and Me”, sponsored by Ulster University and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Health Technology Assessment Programme.

The team have developed an education programme to teach people with learning disabilities who have type 2 diabetes how to best look after themselves. They are now looking for people to help them test how well this programme works. If you or someone you know is interested in participating, please follow this link, or contact the team on: hpft.mydiabetes-me@nhs.net.


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