New diagnostic pathway launched for people with learning disabilities

This week is National Learning Disabilities Awareness Week and together with our partners we’ve launched a pathway for people with learning disabilities in Bolton to access health investigations that they need. There is consistent evidence that people with a learning disability have poorer physical and mental health and experience greater health inequalities than the general population. 

Jainab Desai, Specialist Learning Disabilities Nurse

The pathway was driven and created by Jainab Desai, Specialist Learning Disability Nurse at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, Jen Riley, Deputy Divisional Director of Operations for Integrated Community Services, and Wyn Price, Consultant Anaesthetist at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. They have been working on this project for the last two years, and it has been developed with support from colleagues at NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, specifically Dr Jane Bradford, Clinical Director for Clinical Governance and Safety.

Jainab Desai (pictured right), said: “I identified that some people with a learning disability, complex needs and severe anxiety about needle phobia or health interventions, struggle to access routine diagnostic tests such as blood tests, ECGs or X-rays. Not having these diagnostic tests in a timely manner, or in some cases not at all, can be detrimental to the individual’s health and wellbeing so we wanted to develop a pathway to enable them to get the care they need.”

Using the new pathway, if diagnostics cannot be undertaken at a GP Practice or health centre, then the Community Learning Disabilities Team and GPs are able to assess the need for diagnostic tests to be completed in hospital under sedation. The ability to refer patients on this pathway allows the patient’s healthcare to progress, where previously they were often unable to receive the care they needed.

Jen Riley, CCGJen Riley (pictured right) supported the design of the pathway and building links between GPs, the CCG and the Foundation Trust, and said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with my clinical colleagues on this, who have put so much commitment and passion into it.  I’m really pleased we now have something in place which ensures people with learning disabilities can access diagnostic tests at the right time and in a manner that appropriately meets their needs, which is what I would want and expect for myself or any member of my family.”

The pathway is central to supporting individuals in receiving equitable care and maximising the potential for positive health outcomes.

Claire Sedgley, Specialist Safeguarding Practitioner at NHS Bolton CCG, supported the project from a Mental Capacity Act point of view, making sure that all decisions are in the best interests of the individual. Claire said: “We were thrilled to be involved in such an important and collaborative piece of work which champions human rights and equitable care.”

The new pathway highlights that one size doesn’t fit all, and it is an excellent example of partnership working. The pilot study which was conducted, looking at the outcomes of patients if this pathway was followed, showed that it really does have a positive impact, and goes some way towards addressing the healthcare inequalities and improving health outcomes for people with learning disabilities.


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