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Home > Learning Disability Service > For Staff

For Staff

Definition of a Learning Disability

Adults will be considered to have a Learning Disability if there is :

  • a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with;
  • a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

(Valuing People, the 2001 White Paper)

About people with a Learning Disability

People with a learning disability need special consideration to ensure that they receive care and treatment which meets their specific needs and maintains their safety.

Frequently people with a learning disability will have a number of complex needs which may include impairments in functional skills, communication and additional sensory impairments.

Individuals with multiple disabilities and complex health problems are more likely to use health services (including acute hospital services) on a regular and frequent basis (The National Patient Safety Agency 2004)

People with a Learning Disability will be less able to understand and retain new or complex information.

They will need you to use simple language, and explain things that may be unfamiliar using various communication aids.

They may be at greater risk of swallowing difficulties

They may be less able to communicate if they are in pain or discomfort.

May rely on others to meet some or all of their basic needs  or to maintain their safety

(Department of Health 2001)

The role of the Learning Disability Liaison Nurse

  • To support the patient and their supporters and/or family carers to have a positive experience of care within the hospital.
  • To identify what reasonable adjustments are required by the individual and support the provision of these adjustments.
  • To ensure that NDHT are providing safe and equitable access and treatment for people with learning disabilities.
  • To assist North Devon District Hospital to adjust the patient pathway appropriately, liaising and arranging across professional boundaries to ensure complex health needs are met for patients.
  • Contribute to ensuring healthcare is led by the appropriate clinical professional to meet the identified clinical needs in co-ordination with the appropriate clinical teams and allied health professionals.
  • Support healthcare professionals to recognise that the person’s Learning Disability is not a clinical need, but may impact on how the clinical needs can be understood and best managed.
  • Advise and assist the hospital in providing accessible information for people with learning disabilities.
  • Raise awareness of the dangers of ‘diagnostic overshadowing’;( a term used to describe  a diagnoses of a medical problem being  overshadowed by the person’s disability )
  • Support individuals with Learning Disability, their family and carers to ensure that their voice is listened to within the hospital, in clinical decision making, in providing care and other situations that arise.
  • Encourage a cultural change of respect of the person’s abilities and rights.

Nurse Liaison for adults with a Learning Disability

Please contact Lisa for any advice, support or education

01271 314 171, Bleep 382 or email:

Forms and Documentation

The Hospital Communication Book is a useful tool for use with anyone who has difficulties with communication.

Hospital Passport Easy Read outpatient appointment letter

Recognising learning disabilities (pdf)

Mental Capacity Assessment form (word doc)

IMCA checklist (pdf)

IMCA Referral form (word doc)

Learning Disability, Poor Vision and Registered Blind PAS prompts (pdf)

Further information:


Joint Health and Social Care Self-Assessment Framework 2013

General Medical Council – Learning Disabilities

Meeting the Health Needs of People with Learning Disability

Intellectual Disability & Health

Down’s Syndrome Medical Interest Group

Family Planning Association

Easy Read Health Information Leaflets

Easy Read Health Website

Royal College of General Practitioners

Improving Health & Lives

Equal Treatment: Closing the Gap

Easy Read Medication Leaflets & Information

Easy Read information on a Variety of Health Issues and Treatments


about the Learning Disabilty Liaison Nurse

Learning Disabilty Nurse – Helping you in hospital

Some of the Trust’s main patient information leaflets are available in Easy Read format. Click here

There is also a large selection of Easy Read material on NHS South West’s Picture of health website. Click here

For support or advice please contact : Lisa on: 01271 314 171.