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Learning Disabilities & Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDD)

Under Review — this page was due to be reviewed by Tuesday, 14 March 2023. The information shown here may be outdated.

What is a learning disability?

According to Valuing people: A new strategy for learning disability for the 21st century, the government White Paper for England about health and social care support for people with a learning disability (2001), an individual who has a learning disability has the presence of:

  • a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information or to learn new skills
  • a reduced ability to cope independently
  • an impairment that started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

This means that the person will find it harder to understand, learn and remember new things, and means that the person may have problems with a range of things such as communication, being aware of risks or managing everyday tasks.

What is a learning difficulty?

A learning difficulty is not a learning disability. This includes:

  • dyslexia
  • dyspraxia
  • Special Educational Needs (SEN)
  • difficulties arising from brain injury occurred later in life
  • ADHD
  • dementia.

Tips for successful remote consultations with patients with additional needs

To make consultations with patients who have additional needs, such as learning disabilities, as successful as possible, it can be helpful to:

  • allow more time for them
  • check regularly that the patient is finding the consultation helpful
  • consider whether other forms of communication would be more suitable
  • augment the consultation with written material and follow up via email
  • have family members or carers present
  • apply a lower threshold for a comfort follow-up call the next day than you would normally.

See the Downloads section for easy-read advice on coping with Covid-19, staying safe and staying at home, for both those with learning disabilities and their carers. MenCap has also produced easy-read advice explaining Covid-19.

Beyond Words, a charity that provides books and training to support people who find pictures easier to understand than words, also has a selection of useful Covid-19 related resources on its Coping with Coronavirus page.

Useful information

Easy-read patient information leaflets on a variety of conditions and medications can be accessed via the EasyHealth website and the Bild websiteThe Royal College of Psychiatrists also has resources and leaflets available for people with learning disabilities in easy-read format and for their carers and clinicians. This includes information about capacity and consent.

NHS England has produced a series of leaflets to help families and carers of people with a learning disability know the signs of constipation, which can have fatal consequences more often in this group than in the population as a whole, and what to do if you think someone is constipated.

MenCap has produced a hospital communication book to help ensure people with learning disabilities get equal treatment and service when visiting the hospital.

See also the Mental Capacity Act (2005) and the RCGP Mental Capacity Act Toolkit.

Initiatives to stop over-medication

STOMP and STAMP are initiatives to stop over-medication and support appropriate treatment in children with learning disabilities. This NHS leaflet provides information on STOMP and STAMP to help families become more involved in discussions regarding psychotropic medication.

How to prepare your patient for a hospital visit

Reporting the death of a person with a learning disability

The Learning from Lives and Deaths of People with a Learning Disability and Autistic People Programme (LeDeR) is a national review of deaths of people with learning disabilities.

Please use the LeDeR website to report a death of patient with learning disability who was aged more than four years old.

The LeDeR annual report from 2020 is available on the NHS website.

Learning disability annual health checks

See Downloads and the links below for useful resources to help you carry out annual health checks for people with learning disabilities.

The pre-health check questionnaire is designed to be sent out to service users, providers and carers prior to the health check taking place. It is used to gather information to help inform the health check itself, and should therefore be sent back to the practice in good time.

Area specific guidance for Camden

Here is a selection of useful information for GPs and carers of those with learning disabilities:

Area specific guidance for Barnet

Covid-19 resources

Say No to Abuse

My Health Matters

In Barnet, a new Health Action Plan called My Health Matters has been developed. My Health Matters folders are given out to everyone with a learning disability in Barnet. Service users, carers and families can contact the service via the duty desk to arrange training by phoning t: 020 8359 6161.

Directory of Services

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Clinical Leads

Borough Learning Disabilities & Autism Clinical Lead

Dr John McGrath



Download • PDF, 739.82 KB

Learning Disability Annual Health Toolkit for London - February 2023

NCL Wide
Download • PDF, 62.09 KB

Adult ADHD self-report scale (ASRS-v1.1): Symptom checklist

NCL Wide
Download • DOC, 43.5 KB

Annual health checks: Barnet letter to be sent with pre-health check questionnaire

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Annual health checks: Barnet pre-health check questionnaire

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Annual health checks: Best practice 2020

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Annual health checks: Cardiff health check for people with a learning disability

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Annual health checks: Easy read invitation

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Annual health checks: Easy read letters and goals

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Annual health checks: Guidance for practices

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Annual health checks: Improving identification of people with a learning disability

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Annual health checks: Learning disability register inclusion tool

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Download • DOCX, 1.19 MB

Annual health checks: Pre-health check questionnaire

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Download • PDF, 286.73 KB

Communication support form: Easy read checklist

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Consent to share communication on needs: Easy read

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Contact information: Who can help in an emergency?

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Dysphagia screening tool for people with a learning disability

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GP appointment cards: Easy read

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Keep in Mind checklist for receptionists

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Learning disability codes

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NHS 111: Easy read information

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PHE easy read adult flu leaflet

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Registration form: Easy read

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Registration forms: Large print

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Sepsis patient leaflet: Easy read version

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Sepsis patient leaflet: Plain English version

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STOMP resources

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Top tips for GP practices working with learning disabled patients and their families (October 2022)

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Top tips for GP practices working with learning disabled patients and their families (Easy read, October 2022)

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