Experiences of the implementation of a learning disability nursing liaison service within an acute hospital setting: a service evaluation

Amy Castles, Carol Bailey, Robert Gates, Roja Sooben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


It has been well documented that people with learning disabilities receive poor care in acute settings (Mencap, 2007; Michael, 2008; Mencap, 2012; Heslop, 2013). Over the last few years, a number of learning disability liaison nurse services have developed in the United Kingdom as a response to this, but there has been a failure to systematically gather evidence as to their effectiveness. This article reports on a service evaluation that sought to establish whether implementing a learning disability liaison nurse service improved hospital experiences for patients with learning disabilities, and their carers, whilst in an acute hospital setting. Quantitative data were collected on all patients with learning disabilities referred to this service over a six-month period, and this included numbers referred (elective and emergency), length of time for referral, presenting conditions and age profile, as well as activities of the liaison nurses. These data suggest an incremental rise in referral of patients with learning disabilities to this service over time, relatively few inappropriate referrals, referrals from hospital staff and community services were similar, and these nurses found that some patients with learning disabilities were not referred to the service. Concerning activities of these nurses, these were dominated by discharge planning, assisting in making reasonable adjustments, liaison work and assisting with mental capacity issues. In addition, patients with learning disabilities, their carers and hospital staff who had experience of this learning disability nursing liaison service were interviewed. It was found from these interviews that all participants understood the role of the liaison nurse and articulated that they improved communication as well as promoting holistic care. Those interviewed highlighted the importance of such a role and the need for it to continue. This service evaluation makes an important contribution to an on-going gap in learning disability literature concerning the importance of such a service.
Keywords Acute hospital setting, learning disabilities, liaison nurse, service evaluation
Introduction and
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number4
Early online date16 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


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