School of Psychiatry


Psychiatry of Learning Disability

Why choose Psychiatry of Learning Disability?

Psychiatry of learning disability is one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding of medical careers.   As a psychiatrist working with people with learning disability, you will need to use a wide range of clinical skills combined with a willingness to be creative and show initiative.

Learning disability affects approximately 2% of the population, and people with learning disability are much more likely than the general population to experience mental health condition.  This is because they experience more biological and psychosocial risk factors, and have less internal resources to cope with these.  As specialist psychiatrists we offer treatment for severe mental illness, but also for a wide range of other mental health conditions such as autism spectrum disorders.  The clinical work is often made more complex and interesting by concurrent physical problems such as epilepsy, communication problems and challenges in accessing services. 

Services for people with learning disability have been in the vanguard of delivering community care, and models such as supported living and person centred planning have brought substantial improvements to peoples’ quality of life.  Most mental healthcare for people with learning disabilities is delivered in community settings.  In-patient care is delivered either through specialist services, or in to mainstream services supported by learning disability teams.  More specialist inpatient facilities are provided for people with forensic needs, with autism, and for people with very severe challenging behaviour. The psychiatry of learning disability is also a fascinating academic discipline, whether your interest is in genetics, behavioural phenotypes, psychotherapy or pharmacology.

As a trainee what can I expect from my training programme?

Training in the psychiatry of learning disability is based around two specialist Mental Health and Learning Disability NHS Foundation Trusts; Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys (TEWV) in the South, and Northumberland, Tyne & Wear (NTW) in the North.  There is an expectation that you will experience working in both Trusts.

There are opportunities to experience a wide range of general and specialist learning disability services in the region.  These are located at a number of bases.

National trainee surveys have consistently placed our Learning Disability programme in the top three.  There is a well-established and large network of professionals working with people with learning disability in the region to work alongside, and a high degree of job satisfaction.

What our trainees say:

One of the great things about Learning Disability Psychiatry is that there aren’t many typical days! Even ‘routine’ clinics, ward rounds and team meetings tend to throw up new and interesting challenges where you have to think creatively. A lot of the time this requires working with other team members to manage problems which can range from the relatively simple to the incredibly complex.


I really enjoy the variety of problems that I encounter and the clinical challenge this presents, the ability to potentially make a huge improvement in someone’s quality of life, particularly for a group of people who are often marginalised and misunderstood.

It is challenging trying to work out the complex multifactorial aetiology of people’s presentations, especially when trying to overcome communication difficulties. Though this can be a long and hard process, when you and the team reach an understanding and use that to help somebody, it is an incredibly satisfying experience.

To someone considering this specialty I would say that if you want to maximise and demonstrate your diagnostic, communication and team working skills in addition to experiencing a huge variety in your work, then do Learning Disability Psychiatry. The programme is extremely well organised, with a diverse range of high quality Learning Disability, generic and sub-specialty posts, that will provide you with a strong foundation to apply for Consultant posts.

Current vacancy information    (links to HEE website recruitment page) 

To find out more about our region and Trusts please visit the Find Your Place website.




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