Primary health care provision for adults with a learning disability


Elaine Powrie,
School of Divinity and Religious Studies,
Kings College,
Aberdeen AB24 3UB,


Background. During the last decade, primary care has been designated as the main provider of health care to people with learning disabilities. Practice nurses based in primary care teams are increasingly the first points of contact with health services. They make an important contribution to promoting good health, with health screening and illness prevention work being a significant part of their role. However, little is known about their views or involvement regarding the provision of primary care for people with learning disabilities. There is therefore a need to explore the nursing perspective, from within primary care, on the current provision of care for people with a learning disability.

Research aim. To inform the learning disability service of the role of primary care in current service provision for people with learning disabilities.

Research method. A survey of all practice nurses currently employed by Grampian Health Board in Aberdeen was conducted in June 2001. An initial pilot study was conducted in primary care and learning disability services. Data collection took place during June and July 2001. All practice nurses working in the geographical region of Grampian were invited to participate.

Results. Communication barriers exist, preventing access to health screening and treatment for some people with learning disabilities. Independent living skills, for example dietary management and budgeting, require additional community support. These conditions pose complex problems for practice nurses and other members of the primary care team.

Conclusion. This study indicates a need for closer support and partnership with the learning disability service. The factors necessary for providing health care to people with learning disabilities extend beyond the domain of primary care teams. The findings of this survey have important implications for education and support to enable carers and professionals to provide a high standard of care.