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Invisibility of Patients with Learning Disabilities in Hospital





Speaker: Dr Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, Associate Professor, St George's University and Kingston University (London).  

Dr Tuffrey-Wijne will present the results of a study, in which she was the Principal Investigator, into patient safety for people with learning disabilities in NHS hospitals (2011-2013). This was a mixed method study involving staff, patients and families in six hospitals in England, using questionnaires, interviews and observation. She will focus on the following questions:

  • How effectively can NHS hospitals identify, flag and track patients with learning disabilities?
  • What are the barriers to identifying patients with learning disabilities within NHS hospitals?
  • What are the staff, carer and patient views on this?
  • And… does it matter? What is the effect of patients with learning disabilities being invisible in hospitals?

It was found that people with learning disabilities were largely invisible within the hospitals, which meant that their additional needs were not recognised or understood by staff. Reasonable adjustments were not routinely made, leaving some patients at risk of harm.

About the speaker 

Irene Tuffrey-Wijne trained as a nurse and has extensive clinical experience in both learning disability and palliative care services. Since 2001, Irene has led a programme of research focusing on learning disability, cancer and palliative care, completing her PhD in 2007. She has published widely and is recognised as a leading international expert in the area of palliative care for people with learning disabilities. She chaired the UK based (but international) Palliative Care of People with Learning Disabilities Network ( (2008-2014) and the Taskforce on Intellectual Disabilities of the European Association of Palliative Care (2012-2015).

Reference: Tuffrey-Wijne I, Goulding L, Giatras N, et al. The barriers to and enablers of providing reasonably adjusted health services to people with intellectual disabilities in acute hospitals: evidence from a mixed-methods study. BMJ Open 2014;4:e004606. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013- 004606


Please reserve a place by contacting Doria Pilling.

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When and where

1.00pm - 2.15pmTuesday 10th March 2015

C313 Tait Building City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB United Kingdom