Skip to main content

New directions in diagnostic pathways for adults and children with learning disabilities


Learning disability is often diagnosed in childhood either as part of a specialist neurodevelopmental assessment or on the basis of a pre-existing condition associated with intellectual impairment (e.g. Down’s syndrome). However, many children receive the more generic label of ‘global developmental delay’ and move to adulthood without a diagnosis. There are various other reasons why people seek, avoid, or fail to receive a formal diagnosis before adulthood.

Currently, there is no formal diagnostic pathway and standardised process for learning disabilities defined by NICE, unlike for example for autism. There is a checklist for use by GPs to identify children and adults with diagnosed or suspected learning disability to be added to the Primary Care Learning Disability Register (and access annual health checks, specialist NHS services etc.).

At the same time, some local authorities feel the pressure of increasing numbers of adults with care and support needs seeking diagnosis for a variety of reasons, often to access services. Although the Care Act (2014) stipulates that access to care and support is based on the individual’s needs rather than their diagnosis, the reality is that people with a ‘mild’ learning disability often experience negative wellbeing outcomes because they do not get the support they need.

This Academic Partnership event will explore whether there is a case for an all-age standardised diagnostic process and pathway for learning disability, and what this might look locally. The workshop will provide a platform for health and social care colleagues to share examples of local pathways and practices and/or hear from others.


The workshop will be relevant for health and social care colleagues who are interested in contributing to and hearing from others to consider the importance of dedicated diagnostic pathways. We will also reflect on how such pathways can access appropriate support that leads to improved outcomes and equitable life opportunities for people with a learning disability.


This workshop will consider the national context for the identification and diagnosis of learning disability. There will be the opportunity to hear one local authority’s experiences of the challenges in meeting the needs of their citizens needing a diagnostic pathway.

There will be time for facilitated small group discussions, encouraging participants to share their own experience of good practice and offer solutions to challenges posed.

Workshop format

The workshop will be delivered online and will feature a blend of presentations and smaller group discussions to enable participation by all delegates. The workshop will be delivered by Vicky Townsend, Senior Commissioning Manager, Gloucestershire County Council, and Dr Agnes Turnpenny, Zandrea Stewart, Di Domenico, and Dr Caroline Dowson, IPC Consultants.

Date: 4 July 2023 13.30-15.30pm

Online: Microsoft Teams


Academic Partners are entitled to a number of free places and invitations will be sent to Academic Partners directly, so please check your email to register for this event. We would encourage Academic Partners to register health colleagues to share their expertise. Please share with relevant colleagues and use the Booking form.

This event is also free to Alumni of the IPC Certificate in Commissioning and Purchasing for Public Care who commission LD services for children and/or adults. Please complete the Booking Form above.

If your organisation is not an Academic Partner and you would like to attend there is a charge of £60 (plus VAT) to attend, you will receive an Eventbrite link to enable you to make payment. Please complete the Booking Form above.