Adults with learning disabilities and diabetes are more likely to have health problems than people with diabetes who do not have learning disabilities, according to new research.

The study published in the British Journal of Learning Disabilities identified 12 barriers to optimal diabetes care for adults with learning disabilities. This included a low level of diabetes knowledge and understanding as well as systems that do not allow reasonable adjustments.

The research had two aims. One was to find out what stops adults with learning disabilities from getting help with their diabetes. The other was to find out what things help them get the best care for their diabetes.

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Key databases were searched using relevant terms reviewing barriers and enablers to optimal diabetes care exist for adults with learning disabilities. Included studies were synthesised using thematic analysis and were quality appraised.

Barriers and enablers to optimal diabetes care

The study found that barriers to optimum care from published studies included formal or informal caregivers lacking diabetes knowledge and understanding, community living arrangements and lack of accessible information.

Enablers to good care included autonomy facilitated by caregiver, motivation to self‐manage condition, close relatives with diabetes, peer support, as well as a high level of diabetes knowledge and understanding.

The authors said that policy reports from NHS RightCare and Diabetes UK demonstrated an important step to person‐centred reasonable adjustments being embedded within services across the UK. 

They added that a further opportunity to improve care is the widespread uptake of the reasonable adjustments presented in both reports. 

It was recommended that provision of staff and caregiver training could address the need for patient autonomy for diabetes self‐management, and this could be provided as part of structured education programmes, or as part of a separate educational package targeting professionals and caregivers.