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Joint production of research priorities to improve the lives of those with childhood onset conditions that impair learning: the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership for ‘learning difficulties’

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Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2019


Objectives: To engage children and young people with conditions that impair learning, their parents/carers and the health, education, social work and third sector professionals to identify and prioritise research questions for learning difficulties.

Design: Prospective surveys and consensus meeting guided by methods advocated by the James Lind Alliance.

Setting: Scotland.

Methods: The Priority Setting Partnership came together through discussion and collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Scottish charity The Salvesen Mindroom Centre and partners in the National Health Service, education services and the third sector. A steering group was established. Charity and professional organisations were recruited. Suggested questions were gathered in an open survey and from research recommendations by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network Guidance. Suggested questions and recommendations were summarised into 40 indicative research questions. These indicative questions were verified as uncertainties from research evidence. Respondents each nominated up to 10 questions as research priorities in an interim survey. The 25 highest-ranked questions from the interim survey were prioritised at the final priority setting workshop.

Participants: 367 people submitted suggestions (29 individuals affected by learning difficulties, 147 parents/carers and 191 professionals). 361 people participated in the interim prioritisation (41 individuals, 125 parents/carers and 195 professionals). 25 took part in the final workshop (5 young people, 6 parents and 14 professionals).

Results: Top three research priorities related to (1) upskilling education professionals, (2) best education and community environment and (3) multidisciplinary practice and working with parents. Top 10 included best early interventions, upskilling health, social and third sector professionals, support for families, identifying early signs and symptoms, effective assessments and strategies against stigma and bullying and to live independent lives.

Conclusions: Results will now be a resource for researchers and funders to understand and resolve learning difficulties and improve the lives of those affected with childhood onset conditions that result in learning difficulties.

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