An updated health needs assessment has been published today by NHS Health Scotland.

Today’s report updates the existing 2004 needs assessment and takes into account the growing research evidence base regarding the health of people with learning disabilities. It covers the health inequalities they may experience and the barriers to accessing health services appropriate to their needs.

The update shows that the profile of health problems experienced by people with learning disabilities remains different from that of the general population. People with learning disabilities also have a more complex set of health needs, including both physical and mental health conditions.

The life expectancy of people with learning disabilities is increasing with more living into older age. This is to be celebrated, but also means that there is a need for changes to strategic and local planning and investment in services to meet their changing needs now and in the future.

The report outlines the further work required to identify the population and needs of people with learning disabilities across Scotland and the use of this data to improve the services that people receive. It also proposes a Scottish national health check programme, and improved access to universal services, as well as a review of the capacity and capability of specialist learning disability services. Finally, the report highlights priority areas for future research on the health needs of people with learning disabilities. 

The report and its recommendations will be shared with partners including Scottish Government, Third Sector organisations, Directors of Public Health and Health and Social Care Partnerships for consideration and action to progress work to improve the health of people with a learning disability in ways that are appropriate, meaningful and equitable. 

Head of ScotPHN and NHS Health Scotland’s Knowledge and Research Services, Phil Mackie said: 

People with learning disabilities experience many barriers when accessing healthcare which can have a detrimental impact on their health and well-being and contribute to their experience of health inequalities. Further improvements in accessing universal health services and education and training are necessary, as well as building capacity within specialist learning disability services across Scotland.”