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Open Access Research article

Women with learning disabilities and Read coding: Lessons from a cohort study

Fiona Reynolds1* and Debbi L Stanistreet2

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Epidemiology and Public Health Unit, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

2 Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:252  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-252

Published: 22 July 2008



The aim was to examine any differences in the way that Read codes are applied to the records for female patients with learning disabilities across three PCT areas. To ascertain the most commonly used read codes for learning disability.


This was a retrospective cohort study carried out in Bury, Heywood-and-Middleton and Rochdale PCTs.

All women in the eligible age-group (25–64) as of the 1st June, 2005, who were in contact with the Learning Disabilities Teams in the relevant PCT areas were identified from the Teams' lists. The appropriate Read Codes were then used to identify women on GP systems. Patient data is stored on the GP database systems (Vision, EMIS, EMIS PC4 and Torex) and it was possible to search for patients with learning disabilities.


The use of Read Codes varies across the three areas. The most commonly used Read codes were E3 (Mental Retardation) – 27%, PJ0. (Down's Syndrome) – 14% and Eu81z (Learning Disabilities) – 8%. In 24% of the records a Read Code had not been documented.


Read codes application varies between GP surgeries – dependent on PCT policy and the surgery's approach and also as a result of staff time.