Learning disabilities: Identifying and managing mental health problems

The role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and other public health and social care services.

Patients and healthcare professionals have rights and responsibilities as set out in the NHS Constitution for England. Treatment and care should be centred on the patient, taking into account their needs. Additionally patients should have the opportunity to make informed decisions about their care and treatment, in partnership with their healthcare professionals.

NICE guidance is written to reflect these priorities and focus on improving the care and treatment provided in the health service. They are prepared by groups of healthcare professionals, people who have personal experience or knowledge of the condition, patient representatives, and scientists, and offer evidence-based written information tailored to the needs of the child or young person and their parents or carers.

NICE have just published the Learning disabilities: identifying and managing mental health problems quality standard (QS142) on their website. This quality standard covers the prevention, assessment and management of mental health problems in people with learning disabilities in all settings (including health, social care, education, and forensic and criminal justice). It also covers family members, carers and care workers.  Quality standards describe best practice based on current evidence – what service providers should be aiming for.

In summary this guidance sets out 5 quality standards:

  1. Young people and adults with learning disabilities have an annual health check that includes a review of mental health problems.
  2. People with learning disabilities who need a mental health assessment are referred to a professional with expertise in mental health problems in people with learning disabilities.
  3. People with learning disabilities and a serious mental illness have a key worker to coordinate their care.
  4. People with learning and mental health problems who are receiving psychological interventions have them tailored to their preferences, level of understanding, and strengths and needs.
  5. People with learning disabilities who are taking antipsychotic drugs that are not reduced or stopped have annual documentation on reasons for continuing this prescription.