Learning Disabilities #Physiotalk on Monday 22nd June

The chat is being hosted by @acppld – the CSP Professional Network for Physiotherapists working with people with a Learning Disability. A Learning Disability is defined as: A significant, lifelong condition that starts before adulthood, affects development and leads to a reduced ability to understand new or complex information, learn new skills and cope independently.


There are currently around 1.5 million people in the UK with a Learning Disability, which is approximately 2% of the total population. Reports suggest that this is on the increase due to better survival rates among babies born with severe and complex disabilities, and reduced mortality among older adults with Learning Disabilities. Indications are that this will increase by as much as 14% by 2021. A report published in 2011 by Emerson et al highlighted that people with Learning Disabilities have significantly poorer health, a shorter life expectancy and increased risk of early death when compared to the general population, and that this represents significant health inequalities. Much of these health inequalities are a result of the barriers they face in accessing timely, appropriate and effective health care. The Department of Health via a number of key reports such as Valuing People and Keys to Life, have emphasised that Primary, Acute and Specialist NHS services together have a responsibility to meet the health needs of people with Learning Disabilities.

The majority of areas of the UK (though not all) do have Specialist Learning Disability teams which include physiotherapists with significant skills and experience working with this client group. In comparison to other physiotherapy services however, these teams tend to be very small often with just 1 or 2 physios for entire counties or regions. This means that these resources need to target those clients with the most complex needs and who are unable to access mainstream physiotherapy services. It is estimated that only about 15 – 20% of people with a Learning Disability are known to specialist Learning Disability Teams which means the vast majority will access mainstream services for most of their healthcare. Physiotherapists across the UK will regularly come across clients with Learning Disabilities and be required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure their health care needs are met. Despite these numbers very little training is offered about Learning Disabilities to health professionals or in the undergraduate curriculum.

We hope this #physiotalk will allow physiotherapists from a wide variety of settings to chat together with some specialist Learning Disability Physiotherapists from ACPPLD, sharing ideas and experiences (positive and negative) which will help us all work better to meet the needs of this client group.

To think about pre-chat:

Do you see people with Learning Disabilities in your practice?

If you work in a non specialist service – has this caused any issues?

Have you thought about how to access support or guidance for this client group?


The ACPPLD is the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists for People with Learning Disabilities which is a Professional Network of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. It has a membership of approximately 200 physiotherapists and support workers from all over the UK.

Learning disabilities is a small specialism within Physiotherapy so networking and having opportunity to share good practise across the UK is vital .The aim of ACPPLD is to provide a quality network, which is responsive to the needs of the membership, encouraging information exchange, national networking, peer support, promotion of evidence based practice and research. We also see an important role in improving the awareness of the rights and needs of people with a learning disability.

Useful links

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