To read this content please select one of the options below:

A re-design of undergraduate medical training in intellectual disability: building psychological capital and imparting knowledge to redress health inequalities

Ian Harwood (Consultant Psychiatrist of Intellectual Disability, based at St Andrew's Healthcare, Northampton, UK)
Angela Hassiotis (Professor in Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, based at Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK)

Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities

ISSN: 2044-1282

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




Over 1,250 people with intellectual disabilities die unnecessarily every year in NHS care. The purpose of this paper is to develop higher-order learning amongst medical students to increase engagement with this disadvantaged group and redress this injustice in care provision.


The Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability input to University College London's (UCL) undergraduate medicine MBBS curriculum was re-designed. Materials were developed to broaden the students’ understanding of the stigma and health implication of intellectual disability and the affect it has on the care received by these patients. These were delivered in lecture and e-learning formats. The concept of psychological capital was used to frame the development of new materials with direct involvement of service users with intellectual disability. It is a management model designed to promote higher levels of learning, resulting in a deeper understanding of patient issues by UCL medical graduates.


Findings from the online survey that accompanies the e-learning materials suggests that students have overwhelmingly adopted a positive outlook towards patients with intellectual disability and consider training necessary for all doctors. The filmed scenarios with people with intellectual disability appealed to students.

Practical implications

The broadening of the educational materials required a re-design of the methods of curriculum delivery, a higher level of self-directed learning and student time commitment. Further assessments of the impact of the module are planned to include formative assessments of learning.

Social implications

Medical lack of knowledge, personal attitudes and a reluctance to engage with people with intellectual disability have been identified as barriers to their receiving appropriate care.


A blend of organisational change theories has been integrated into the production of a new, multi-media, e-learning package.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments, advice and guidance received from colleagues Drs Andre Strydom, Dimitrios Paschos, Amanda Sinai and Ken Courtney. Special thanks go also to Gary Schwartz, the author's producer and Moodle magician and to Dr Julie Evans for her invaluable encouragement and support throughout the project.


Harwood, I. and Hassiotis, A. (2014), "A re-design of undergraduate medical training in intellectual disability: building psychological capital and imparting knowledge to redress health inequalities", Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 8 No. 6, pp. 354-361.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles