Supporting people with learning disabilities to have blood tests
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Supporting people with learning disabilities to have blood tests

Rhian Malik Community nurse for people with learning disabilities, neurodevelopmental services, Your Healthcare, Surbiton, England
Charlie Giles Behaviour analyst, Your Healthcare, Surbiton, England

Why you should read this article
  • To acknowledge that people with learning disabilities experience health inequalities

  • To recognise that fear and anxiety about medical procedures in general and needles in particular can be a clinical challenge to providing effective care for people with learning disabilities

  • To be aware of an evidence-based group intervention that can support people with learning disabilities to have blood tests without chemical or physical restraint

People with learning disabilities experience challenges in accessing effective healthcare and undergoing invasive investigations, including blood tests. Disability discrimination legislation places the onus on services to make reasonable adjustments so that this group can receive effective health interventions. If people have capacity to consent, a refusal to undergo a diagnostic procedure or investigation must be respected. If they do not have capacity to consent, however, chemical or physical restraint may be used to facilitate procedures. Locally, service users were, on occasion, not receiving timely diagnosis of their health conditions because of their refusal to undergo a blood test. Individual desensitisation work was often undertaken as a result, as was treatment under sedation, with varying degrees of success.

This article explores the implementation of an evidence-based group intervention that aimed to increase the likelihood that people with a learning disability would consent to receive blood tests without the need for chemical or physical restraint. Since its implementation in 2011 seven groups have been completed with a total of 18 participants, of whom 14 had a blood test successfully.

Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2020.e2023

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Malik R, Giles C (2020) Supporting people with learning disabilities to have blood tests. Learning Disability Practice. doi: 10.7748/ldp.2020.e2023

Published online: 21 January 2020

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