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Improving access to primary care and annual health checks for people who have a learning disability. A multi-stakeholder qualitative study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah WighamORCiD, Jane Bourne, Professor Gill Rowlands, Dr Simon Hackett



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Objectives: To investigate key stakeholders’ views on how to improve access to primary care in general practice settings for people with learning disabilities (or intellectual disabilities). Further to explore how inequalities and barriers in specific areas including annual health checks might be addressed. Design: A qualitative study design was utilized with data collected during focus groups, interviews and open-response surveys; data analysis was thematic and informed by stakeholder consultation. Processes to facilitate quality included triangulation of stakeholder perspectives, triangulation of data collection methods, and checking interpretation of findings with participants. Setting: UK regional services including learning disability organisations, primary care general practitioner clinical practice networks and supported housing organisations. Participants: Sixteen people participated in the study: 4 people with learning disabilities participated in a focus group; 4 relatives completed an interview or survey; 8 GPs, practice nurses and supported housing managers participated in interviews. Results: Five overarching themes describing approaches to improve primary care access for people with learning disabilities were identified including: prioritisation, proactivity, innovation and improvement, personalisation and prevention and follow-up. Definitions of themes were described and illustrated with quotes. Ten recommendations informed by the thematic analysis, stakeholder consultation, research and primary care guidance were co-developed with people with learning disabilities. Conclusions: All stakeholders identified problems, with primary care interfaces being misaligned with the needs of people with learning disabilities. The recommendations informed by all stakeholders can be used to guide development of service provision to better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities in primary care. Future research should explore professionals’ understanding of reasonable adjustments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wigham S, Bourne J, McKenzie K, Rowlands G, Petersen K, Hackett S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMJ Open

Year: 2022

Volume: 12

Issue: 12

Online publication date: 23/12/2022

Acceptance date: 02/12/2022

Date deposited: 05/12/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2044-6055

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-065945


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Funder referenceFunder name
DHSC Research Capability Funding
National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria