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Quality of life as a concept for developing learning disability nursing practice?


Correspondence to: Ruth Northway, School of Care Sciences, University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, UK (tel.: +01443 483177; e-mail:


• This paper offers a critical examination of how the concept of Quality of Life might be used to enhance learning disability nursing practice.

• Quality of Life will increasingly influence the provision and evaluation of services and practice in the field of learning disability. Attempting to define and assess Quality of Life is, however, problematic because of the complexity and multidimensional nature of the concept.

• The use of domains to measure Quality of Life is advocated by many researchers for both objective and subjective measures and use of Quality of Life as an evaluation tool is seen as a way of improving the life quality of people with learning disabilities. However, there are concerns that the use of such an approach could perpetuate professional agendas rather than empower people with learning disabilities themselves.

• To date, Quality of Life approaches have not had a major impact on learning disability nursing. However, it is suggested that they can be helpful as sensitizing concepts, a basis for collaborative care planning and a framework for evaluation.

• Recommendations are made for education, practice and research.