Dysphagia in people with learning disabilities
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Dysphagia in people with learning disabilities

Tom Howseman GP and clinical director of learning disability commissioning, Nene and Corby Commissioning Care Group at St Luke’s Primary Care Centre, Northampton

Tom Howseman reviews guidance for carers and professionals on the management of service users who have difficulties swallowing

Dysphagia has a detrimental effect on quality of life, particularly among people with learning disabilities. The cause of the condition must be identified to assess risk, plan management and, above all, ensure the safe administration of medicines. Yet, although people with learning disabilities and swallowing difficulties may be at serious risk if their conditions are not diagnosed and managed appropriately, there has been a lack of guidance on the subject in the UK. This article explains how a multidisciplinary group of UK healthcare professionals shared their knowledge about dysphagia in a guideline for best practice. It also describes how to determine its causes and emphasise the importance of the condition. The article covers the administration of medications to people with swallowing difficulties, the importance of regular and comprehensive reviews of medications, and the need to involve the people concerned and their carers in such reviews, and in care planning. It also deals with some of the legal principles underpinning this area of care, where many service users have insufficient mental capacity to make necessary decisions.

Learning Disability Practice. 16, 9, 14-22. doi: 10.7748/ldp2013.



Conflict of interest

None declared

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Received: 14 June 2013

Accepted: 11 September 2013

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