Grapevine’s training for NHS staff raised as best practice in fight to improve lives of people with learning disabilities

A national study to identify good examples of learning disability awareness training for health professionals has highlighted Grapevine’s work in Coventry and Warwickshire as a case study of effective best practice.

Our Health Team is made up of people with lived experience of learning disabilities and project leads, Alice and Kelly. Together they deliver a range of work to empower their peers, enable better access to healthcare services for people with learning disabilities and improve health outcomes.

Two women and two men from the Health Team sit in front of a presentation they are delivering to a group of health professionals
The Health Team delivers a session to University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire staff.

One aspect is a two and a half hour awareness and health inequalities training session entitled ‘Disable the Label’, designed and delivered by the team for health and social care students, professionals, social prescribers and early years workers. The session includes personal stories, interactive games, role play, case studies and myth-busting activities.

A more detailed outline can be found in the new NDTi (National Development Team for Inclusion) case study by clicking this link.

“Volunteering with the Health Team has been great because I’ve been making a real difference. I have helped health professionals such as doctors and nurses to understand what it’s like to have a learning disability and use health services, and how they can make small changes to how they work to support us better.” (Tina from the Health Team)

NDTi’s mission is to enable people at risk of exclusion, due to age or disability, to live the life they choose. They share our own vision of a world where everyone matters.

Commissioned in 2019 by the South Regional Health Education England Intellectual Disabilities programme, NDTi’s research sought to find and share best practice in training people who work for NHS Trusts to support people with learning disabilities.

Crucially, learning from this research and examples of training tools and approaches already working well now need to be put into practice on a much wider scale.

When Grapevine’s Health Team first launched their campaign in 2019 to increase the number of annual health checks completed by GPs, just 39 per cent of people with learning disabilities in Coventry and Warwickshire were taking doctors up on the offer.

In just 12 months, and in spite of the pandemic, this figure rose to over 71 per cent by 2021 – thanks in large part to the Health Team’s tireless promotion of annual health checks among peers and professionals as a tool to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But it is still not enough.

The 2021 Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) report showed people with learning disabilities still die younger than their non-disabled peers, more than half were likely to be poverty stricken when they died and just five per cent were in employment.

A council in Somerset recently voted to declare a “learning disability emergency” with local councillor Mark Blaker, whose son Joe has a learning disability, saying: “People with learning disabilities are not given the basic opportunities, the basic advantages that we all take for granted in our lives.”

Although there is a long way to go to close the health inequalities gap, we hope this research and the government’s new requirement for health and care staff to receive specialist training continues to promote awareness and practice of better, more informed care for people with learning disabilities.

Further resources

Annual LeDeR report on the NHS website.

Annual Health Checks campaign – animated video.

Health stories – Ashley, Hayley, Susie and Shannon.

Articles about health on the Grapevine website.

Contact the Health Team at or call 02476 631040.