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GP surgeries part of pilots to boost care for LD patients

New system could flag a patient’s learning disability to clinicians

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 16 August 2019

Pilots are to be run to introduce new “reasonable adjustment” flags on patient records to help healthcare professionals improve care for patients with a learning disability.

NHS Digital today revealed details of pilots that will involve having a flag on patient records to let doctors, nurses and other health and care staff know that a patient has a learning disability and has specific needs that require adjustments to the services provided so they get the best care.


Under the Equality Act 2010, health and care organisations have a legal duty to make it as easy for people with a disability to use health services as it is for anyone. This is called making reasonable adjustments such as ensuring there is wheelchair access in hospitals, providing easy read appointment letters, and longer appointments if someone needs more time with a doctor or nurse.

The pilots in Gloucestershire and Devon involve various care settings including GP surgeries, hospitals and community services for learning disability.

In the trial, staff will access the information through a patient’s record on the Summary Care Record application. In the longer term, it will be integrated with clinical systems so that staff will be able to see it on their own screens as soon as they search for the patient.

The reasonable adjustment flag can include a patient’s need for a longer appointment or a quiet waiting area as well as how to communicate with them or who to involve in decisions about their health and care.

The flag has been developed in the NHS Spine and is currently accessible to pilot organisations through the Summary Care Record application and is clearly visible alongside other key information.

Pilot organisations will create the flag in conjunction with the patient and/or carer or in line with existing best interest decision processes.

The pilots will look at what impact this has on care when that information is readily available to staff from the first point of contact onwards.

They will run to the end of September to test the technology behind the flag and gather feedback from staff, patients and carers.

NHS Digital will then consider expanding the scheme, including widening the geographical area, giving access to more care settings and trialling integration with clinical systems.

Dr Rob Jeeves, clinical lead for the project at NHS Digital, said: “By helping staff to recognise their patients’ needs earlier, we can help those patients access the best possible care while reducing pressure on the NHS.

“This pilot will explore how flagging vital information can influence the experience of care for people with a learning disability.

“This will help to drive real improvement for a patient group that is disproportionally affected by poor health outcomes.”

Susan Hanley, chief executive of learning disability campaigning group Leeds People First, said: “1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability but it can’t always be seen.

“For me, if the hospital had a system that told them that I wanted easy-read information and for the doctor to speak clearly with no jargon, it would be really useful as I don’t always have my health passport on me. Some people don’t want to repeat themselves to everyone they meet so this information on a computer would help.”

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