Pioneering project improves health and wellbeing for people with learning disabilities


A pilot which created never seen before insights into people’s health and wellbeing has been used to reduce health inequalities for adults with learning disabilities in Bradford and Gloucestershire.

The pioneering approach adopted by national learning disabilities charity, Hft, aimed to use technology to improve the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities and, ultimately, improve outcomes.

The innovative project, funded by the Health Foundation and led by Hft’s Personalised Technology team, involved two groups of 20 people with learning disabilities supported by Hft, one receiving residential support in Gloucestershire and the other community-based services in Bradford.  The pilot brought together two tools, Lincus, an easy-to-use programme using pictures which helps people to more easily communicate how they are feeling, and integrated it with the Health Equalities Framework (HEF) – an evidence-based outcomes framework which identifies the impact of services in reducing issues which can lead to inequitable healthcare. The project digitised the HEF, making it accessible on the Lincus platform via a tablet device and allowing the data to be easily collated and analysed.

The collated data provided a unique holistic overview of each person’s health and wellbeing, creating a complete picture of how someone is supported both within the service, at home and in the wider community.  As more was found out about each individual, changes were made to the way each individual was supported, resulting in an overall improvement in their health and wellbeing.

Sarah Weston, Innovation Manager for Hft, said: “Our aim was to develop a practical, user friendly tool that supports people with learning disabilities to increase ownership over their lives.  We wanted to give people more control over their health and wellbeing and management of any long-term conditions, while guiding and supporting staff to improve care quality.  As a result we were able to create a more in depth view of how someone is supported, not just in our services, but at home and within the community.  The result was a unique insight into each person’s health, creating a greater understanding of the individual. What we ultimately found was that this provided potential opportunities to positively change care pathways for people with learning disabilities in a way that has never previously been realised before.”

One of the key findings drawn from the project was establishing where responsibility for people’s health needs, outside of social care, should lie. Areas were identified where additional support was needed, such as help with accessing the dentist and ensuring equipment was routinely serviced, which are not traditionally part of a day service. Staff used these opportunities to help educate families and carers to ensure gaps in support would not arise.

For Shaun in Bradford, more detailed questioning has resulted in the facilitation of additional support from occupational therapy services to source new equipment and ensure its regular maintenance – areas which fall out of the remit of the day service.  This has also lead to a change in the yearly reviews carried out in the day service, to incorporate health in more detail as well as focusing on the activities and interests of each person.

The results also highlighted the growing need to create a more integrated approach between health and social care in order to support an aging population with learning disabilities, who are more likely to develop long-term medical conditions at an earlier age.

This is the first project focusing on learning disabilities to be funded by The Health Foundation, an independent health care charity, as part of its £1.5 million ‘Innovating for Improvement’ Plan.

Hft was one of twenty-one health care projects selected in the UK to be part of the second round of the innovation programme which aims to improve health care delivery and the way people manage their own health care by testing and developing innovative approaches and putting them into practice.

The programme ran for fifteen months with each project receiving up to £75,000 of funding to support the implementation and evaluation of the project.

The findings of all the funded projects were presented on 30 March in London.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact: Suzanne Fry, PR & Media Manager, on 0117 906 1755 or suzanne.fry@hft.org.uk. For media enquiries outside of office hours please call 0117 906 1697

About Hft

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

For more information about Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk

Information about learning disabilities

A learning disability can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

Subject: Personalised technology

Location: Hft Bradford