• Integrated services;
  • learning disabilities;
  • mental health;
  • semi-structured interviews;
  • service evaluation;
  • users’ views

Accessible summary

• People with learning disabilities have told us what it was like to be looked after in general psychiatric wards and in our local psychiatric ward where four of the beds are for people with learning disabilities.

• People who used mainstream wards found it quite frightening to begin with and things were not always explained very well. People who used the local ward were less worried when admitted and settled in quicker.

• People who used general psychiatric wards did not always feel that their medication was explained to them properly. People who used the local ward still had some concerns about this but generally felt that medication was explained properly.

• Most people said that they got on well with the other people in both types of ward and they felt that social contact with others was one of the most positive things about their admission.

• People using both types of ward liked to have one nurse on the ward who they could go to if anything needed to be sorted out.


During the 1990s, a decision was made within the Learning Disabilities services of Camden & Islington to develop a local integrated service for people requiring an acute psychiatric admission. There had been little research at the time on the experiences of people with learning disabilities within the type of inner London acute mental health service within which beds were to be located. In order to inform the development of the new service, we undertook to interview a number of service users with learning disabilities who had experienced acute admissions to general psychiatric wards during the previous three years. The information that was provided was then incorporated into the service's development process. Subsequently, a further round of interviews took place with people who had used the new service to determine whether experiences had changed and to identify areas for further service development and improvement.