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ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Pain in people with learning disabilities in residential settings – the need for change



Accessible summary

  •  Pain is not recognised and managed well for people with learning disabilities in residential settings – People with learning disabilities are not getting timely and appropriate ‘as required’ medication for their pain.
  •  Staff do not use pain recognition tools or communication aids.
  •  Some staff still believe that people with learning disabilities have a higher pain threshold than people without a learning disability. They also let this belief affect how they manage pain.
  •  This research matters to people with learning disabilities. It is important that staff and carers recognise and manage pain well. We have developed a pain training pack for staff and carers and leaflets for both people with learning disabilities and staff and carers.


This audit investigated residential staff beliefs around pain thresholds and strategies they adopt to recognise and manage pain in people with learning disabilities across Surrey. A structured interview was constructed to elicit information. Results demonstrated that pain is not being effectively recognised or managed by residential staff in Surrey. It highlighted the need for training for staff in how to recognise and manage pain, as well as the need for appropriate pain recognition tools and communication aids to be utilised to support people with learning disabilities to be able to communicate their pain to others. It also indicated the need for better communication between staff and other services that the person with learning disabilities accesses.