The use of anti-psychotic and other psychotropic medication in a specialist community service for adults with learning disabilities

20 Jul 2018

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which, in the five integrated community teams for adults with learning disabilities (CTLDs) in an English county-wide service, the use of psychotropic medication for service users was based on the presence of an appropriate mental health condition or epilepsy. Design/methodology/approach Adult participants were recruited following referral to one of the CTLDs for assessment, treatment and/or support of a possible mental health and/or behavioural need. Data were collected about participant characteristics and psychotropic medication 12 months after recruitment. Findings While a total of 42 (78 per cent) of the 54 participants were apparently prescribed regular or PRN (as required) psychotropic medication, only 24 (57 per cent) of these individuals had a recorded past or current mental health condition or epilepsy for which such medicine could be appropriate. Research limitations/implications There were several limitations: the sample size was small and its representativeness was uncertain; and data collection was compromised by barriers to explicit knowledge exchange within and across the learning disability service. Practical implications While recent guidance about the use of psychotropic medication is welcome, minimising inappropriate use requires more comprehensive person-centred interventions (including crisis management plans), underpinned by imaginative, but feasible, data collection methods and integrated formulations. Investment is needed in developments that support multi-disciplinary and inter-agency working to promote “good practice” by CTLDs in responding to referrals for possible mental health and/or behavioural needs. Originality/value Complementing recent large studies of primary care (General Practitioner) records, this is the first examination of the use of psychotropic medication by service users in English CTLDs.