Hospital admission rates for children and young people with learning disabilities


Children and young people with learning disabilities have higher rates of physical health conditions compared with other children. Increased hospital admissions for conditions which are ambulatory care sensitive is indicative of poor management in primary care. This cohort study aims to investigate the frequency and duration of hospital admissions and the most common conditions for children and young people with learning disabilities.

What we did

Scotland’s annual Pupil Census covers all publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools in Scotland. A national cohort of children and young people with learning disabilities was established using data from Pupil Census records 2008 up to 2013. To investigate hospital admission rates across Scotland, we linked this data to the Scottish Morbidity Register up to 2015, which identifies all acute hospital admissions including both planned and emergency admissions. Prospective emergency admissions as well as planned admissions to hospital were identified. Cox proportional hazards models were used to investigate the risk of prospective admission for pupils with versus without learning disabilities.

What we found

18,278 pupils with learning disabilities were identified in the Pupil Census along with 777,912 pupils without learning disabilities. 17,051 total admissions were recorded for 5,089 pupils with learning disabilities (28%), compared to 277,012 admissions for 157,565 (20%) of controls. 15% of pupils with learning disabilities had emergency admissions versus 12% of controls. Further data analysis is ongoing. On completion, descriptive statistics for age, frequency and duration of hospital stay, as well as most common conditions, and hazard ratios for the risk of admission will be reported. Results for both emergency and planned admissions will be included.

What this means

The evidence from this study will increase understanding of the rates of hospital admissions including for conditions which are managed in the community. Results will enable policy makers and practitioners to improve clinical practice in order to reduce avoidable hospital admissions, and provide targeted areas for management outside of an acute care setting.

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This page was updated on 9th September 2020