Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Enabling People with Mild Intellectual Disability and Mental Health Problems to Access Healthcare Services.

Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2012

Principles of normalisation and Government policy in the UK state that wherever possible, people with learning disabilities should use mainstream mental health services. However, often these lack the resources, skills and expertise to manage this group of patients.

The focus of present guidance addresses mainly the mental health needs of adults with mild intellectual disability. These service users form the majority of the population of people with intellectual disability and are more likely to present with identifiable mental disorders, but nevertheless may have difficulty accessing services such as in-patient wards and home treatment teams, particularly at times of crisis. Often, adult mental health professionals maintain that they lack the specialist skills needed in order to treat these individuals. However, community intellectual disability services have a crucial role with this group in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health ill health, and, in particular, supporting and facilitating access to mainstream mental health services where extra support is required.

The intended target audience is front-line professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists), who refer, assess and manage adults with intellectual disability in the community. It provides a framework within which to facilitate collaboration between adult mental health and community intellectual disability services in order to meet the mental health needs of people with intellectual disability. It is also relevant to those individuals who may have significant psychosocial difficulties as a result of comorbid neuropsychiatric problems such as autism spectrum disorder.

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