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Constipation and Learning Disability

Checked: 23-07-2023 by 5 Rob Adams Next Review: 23-07-2025


Constipation can be a life–threatening issue for people with a learning disability who are at heightened risk from complications if it is left untreated.

In fact, 23% of people with a learning disability who died in 2019 had constipation as a long-term condition.

People with a learning disability may also be less likely to recognise the symptoms of constipation and be able to communicate their symptoms, increasing the risk of serious consequences. (1) 

Resources have been created to support prevention, recognition and treatment of constipation in people with a learning disability and this includes a link to the constipation toolkit:

NHS Constipation Toolkit (

Role of primary care

Constipation is more serious for people with a learning disability

Ensure people with a learning disability get treated for constipation

Constipation can cause fatal complications if it’s not treated – and people with a learning disability are much more likely to be at risk.

Some people with a learning disability or their carers may not have identified that they are experiencing constipation before presenting. Instead they may present with symptoms such as stomach pain or report changes in behaviour such as agitation or eating less. It’s important to consider that these may be signs of constipation and act accordingly.

The following pages also have useful links and resources:

Constipation in Adults (Remedy BNSSG ICB)

Gastro–intestinal system Guidelines (Remedy BNSSG ICB) - links to BNSSG Constipation Guidelines (adults)

Constipation in Children (Remedy BNSSG ICB) 


(1) NHS England » Constipation resources

(2) NHS Constipation Toolkit (


Efforts are made to ensure the accuracy and agreement of these guidelines, including any content uploaded, referred to or linked to from the system. However, BNSSG ICB cannot guarantee this. This guidance does not override the individual responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer, in accordance with the mental capacity act, and informed by the summary of product characteristics of any drugs they are considering. Practitioners are required to perform their duties in accordance with the law and their regulators and nothing in this guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Information provided through Remedy is continually updated so please be aware any printed copies may quickly become out of date.