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Medical matters and secret loves

Press release issued: 22 April 2002

Media release
Medical matters and secret loves

People with learning difficulties could benefit from almost £400,000 worth of research that will be carried out in partnership with staff working in the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol. Two separate research projects have been awarded almost £200,000 each by the Community Fund - formerly the National Lottery Charities Board.

One project, led by the Frenchay and Southmead Care Trust and The Home Farm Trust, aims to gain a better understanding of psychotropic drugs which are commonly used to control individuals with difficult or challenging behaviours. However, evidence suggests that these drugs are prescribed excessively, and randomised controlled trials provide no verification that such medication helps. Indeed there is a well-documented history of their adverse effects.

Over the past decade, more emphasis has been placed on the legal rights of people to be informed about their treatment and to make decisions for themselves wherever possible. Yet knowledge of medication in people with learning difficulties has received scant attention. The need to fill this gap is vital, so that people with learning difficulties and their families or carers can give informed consent to treatment with medication.

Jackie Rodgers and Pauline Heslop from the Norah Fry Research Centre, who will be working on this project, explained that the research will focus on those at greatest disadvantage in our society. People with learning difficulties routinely lack choice and control over what happens to them. The research will aim to improve the quality of life of people with learning difficulties through finding out what is needed to ensure the safe, effective prescribing of psychotropic drugs.

The other project, led by Terrence Higgins Trust, the national HIV charity, and REGARD, the national organisation for gay, lesbian and bisexual disabled people, will explore same sex relationships for people with learning difficulties. There are a significant range of social disadvantages, barriers and exclusion to full participation in society for people with learning difficulties. Those who might identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, may therefore face a double discrimination.

The aim of the research is to understand more about the individual experiences of men and women with learning difficulties, and to explore how the barriers they face can be overcome. This will improve their opportunities to make choices about their relationships and enable them to be better supported in the exploration of their sexual identity.

David Abbott, also of the Norah Fry Research Centre at the University of Bristol, said: "The proposal focuses specifically on experiences of people with learning difficulties in establishing relationships with people of the same sex. It seeks to place their accounts at the centre of the research."

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Monday, 22-Apr-2002 12:42:16 BST

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