Exploring the medication related experiences of adults with learning disabilities

Exploring the medication related experiences of adults with learning difficulties.

Ms Joan MacLeod, Lead Pharmacist, Robert Gordon University


Learning disability (LD) is the UK term used to describe an individual who has: significant impairment of intellectual functioning (generally recognised as IQ<70); significant impairment of adaptive/social functioning; and where the age of onset was before adulthood. People with learning disabilities (LD) are known to have increased medical needs. Associated with increased medical needs is an increased incidence of prescribed medication. However, despite this increased incidence of prescribed medication, little is known about people with LD’s attitudes to their medication. In order for both prescribers and pharmacists to provide tailored and meaningful support to people with LD (in relation to medication), and thereby improve patient care, a greater understanding of people with LD’s experience of medication (including the burden and impact it has on their life) is required.


The purpose of this study is, therefore, to explore the medication related experiences of adults with LD: their medication related burden, medication related beliefs and medication taking practice.

Research Questions

The research questions are framed around the PLEM conceptual model as detailed in Appendix 1.

  • What medication related burden is/has been experienced by adults with LD?
  • What are the medication related beliefs of adults with LD?
  • What is the resulting medication taking practice of adults with LD?

Methodology and Methods  

Aberdeen City Local Authority LD Care Services, CASPA and Mr Ian Stones (an individual with LD who chairs the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire LD Support group) have already reviewed the proposal and are willing to support the researcher with the research including reviewing study documentation, recruitment and piloting methods involved in conducting the research.

The chosen study design is case study. 6-10 adults with LD will be recruited, each of whom will become a ‘case’. Potential cases will be identified (and initially approached) by Aberdeen City Local Authority LD Care Services, Care and Support Providers Aberdeen (CASPA) or the Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire Learning Disability Support Group using their knowledge of their clients and the study inclusion and exclusion criteria.Consent to be included as a case will be obtained from the person, their Guardian or their closest family member. Consent will also be obtained from Care Providers (if appropriate) and all participants.

Data will be collected, where possible, by:

  • In-depth interviews
  • Documentary Analysis
  • Fieldwork Notes and Observation
  • Photos

This work has been funded by PRUK and NHS Education for Scotland. The project started in September 2016 and is due to be completed in September 2019.

Appendix 1: Conceptual Model of Patient’s Lived Experience with Medication (PLEM) taken from Mohammed, Moles and Chen (2016)