Enabling hospitals to be more inclusive and responsive to people with intellectual disabilities

Professor Christine Bigby1, Professor Jacinta  Douglas1, Professor  Teresa Iacono1

1La Trobe University, Living With Disability Research Centre, Bundoora, Australia

There is much evidence internationally about the health inequalities, and from the UK, the poor quality of hospital care for people with intellectual disabilities.  Evidence from Australia and Victoria has been limited however. This study aim was to provide evidence about the processes and practices that enable hospitals to respond to the particular needs of people with intellectual disabilities.

Mixed methods were used and the study was conducted across three health networks. Fifty primary participants with intellectual disabilities were recruited as they commenced a hospital encounter and followed through to discharge. Unstructured non-participant observation and semi-structured interviews provided data about experiences of patients, those accompanying them and hospital staff involved with them.

Almost all encounters began in Emergency and close to half (48%) moved from Emergency to a short stay unit or a ward. Qualitative analysis revealed promising strategies and processes within four themes (support, information, collaboration and knowledge) that could be applied across the hospital journey.

This study has enabled identification of a clear set of strategies to guide the development of hospital practices to improve the care experiences and health outcomes of people with intellectual disabilities.


Professor Christine Bigby is Director of the Living with Disability Research Centre at La Trobe University. She has won the ASID Research prize three times since 1993. She has published 6 book, 35 book chapters, over 135 journal articles and numerous research reports.  She is editor of the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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