The local NHS is working across Portsmouth and south east Hampshire to increase the number of people with learning disabilities (LDs) who take up their free health-checks.
People with learning disabilities have poorer physical and mental health compared to others – but this doesn’t need to be the case.
The NHS wants to address this health inequality by encouraging far more people with an LD to be registered on their GP learning disability register – giving them the chance to access more support and have an annual health check, which might detect health conditions which otherwise go unnoticed.
People aged 14 and over who have been assessed as having moderate, severe or profound learning disabilities, or people with a mild learning disability who have other complex health needs, are entitled to the free check.
People with learning disabilities often have difficulty in recognising illness, communicating their needs and using health services. But research shows that regular health checks can uncovers health conditions which can be simple to treat and make them feel better - while sometimes serious illnesses are found at an early stage when they can be treated.
Our CCGs – working with Portsmouth CCG, NHS South Eastern Hampshire CCG, Solent NHS Trust and Southern Health NHS Trust, are mounting a three-pronged publicity campaign aimed at people with learning disabilities, their families/carers and staff in GP practices.
The initiative is in response to NHS England’s Learning Disability Programme and the launch of a new ‘National Electronic Health Check (Learning Disabilities) Clinical Template’ for GPs to use when providing the annual health check for people with a LD.
The Annual Health Check is also a chance for the person to get used to going to their GP practice, which reduces their fear of going at other times. It will involve a general physical examination, including checking their weight, heart rate, blood pressure and taking blood and urine samples; asking questions about their lifestyle, and mental health; a check for epilepsy; a check on their prescribed medication; a check on whether any chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes, are being well managed; and a review of any arrangements with other health professionals, such as physiotherapists or speech therapists.
If the person's learning disability has a specific cause, the GP or practice nurse will often do extra tests for particular health risks.
If you care for someone with a learning disability, they can get extra support when visiting their doctor. All you or they have to do is ask for their name to be added to the GP learning disability register.
You can help them do this by talking to their doctor’s surgery or by using this template letter. Complete this letter and give it to the doctor during their next appointment. Once on the register they can speak to their doctor about having a free Health Check every year. There are lots of reasons why they should have their Annual Health Check if their doctor says they can have one, including:
Make sure the doctor gives them a health action plan after the health check. This includes goals for them and the doctor to work towards together.
Another way you can ensure they are getting the very best healthcare is by supporting them to give their doctor consent for their information to be shared. With the individuals permission, or in some cases the carer or family members’ permission, the doctor can add additional information to the individuals Summary Care Record (SCR). Everyone has a SCR. Speak to the doctor about the individual giving consent for Additional Information (AI) to be stored.
This can include details of their learning disability, any physical/sensory disability, communication needs, contact details of a carer or next of kin etc. It also allows all health professionals who care for them to know their latest needs and requirements.
The Royal College of General Practitioners has also produced a Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities toolkit.
To view the Southern Health page on LD strategic health facilitators, click here.