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Gyles Glover

Annual health checks for people with learning disabilities

People with learning disabilities have poorer physical and mental health than other people. This is not inevitable. These are health inequalities that can, to a significant extent, be avoided. One approach of provine value is annual health checks to identify developing health problems early, to check that current treatments are appropriate and working and to familiarise people with learning disabilities with their GP and the surgery so they are are better able to use them when the need arises.

Primary health services have a legal responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to providing primary care services for people with needs arising from disabilities. Health checks are one important component of this. Since 2009, GPs have received extra money for providing these health checks.

The Learning Disabilities Observatory Team has done several pieces of work on Health Checks.

Checking the numbers each year

Each year we try to obtain detailed numbers of people eligible for checks and numbers of checks that have been done. Our reports can be found on our page on How many people receive health checks

We have had delays in getting access to these data for 2014 to 2015. At present our most recent report covers 2013 to 2014. We hope to be able to report on 2014 to 2015 early in 2016.

Reviewing and presenting the evidence

We have reviewed all relevant scientific studies on the effectiveness of health checks for people with learning disabilities. The introduction of health checks for people with learning disabilities nearly always leads to:

  • the detection of unmet, unrecognised and potentially treatable health conditions (including serious and life threatening conditions such as cancer, heart disease and dementia);
  • targeted actions to address these health needs.

Given the specific difficulties faced by people with learning disabilities, we believe that targeted health checks are an effective and important ‘reasonable adjustment’ to primary health care services in the UK. It is the legal duty (under the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995, 2005 and the Equality Act 2010) of primary care services to make such adjustments.

More information on the impact of health checks is available in our report, and in a short summary. These are all at the bottom of this page.

We have also produced a briefing for GP commissioning consortia and PCTs to help address the issues identified in these reports. We have written an easy read version of the briefing.

There is a presentation by Dr Matt Hoghton, about how to increase the quantity and quality of health checks. The presentation includes helpful tips about how to work with GPs.

Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities: Summary of Evidence
PDF Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities: Summary of Evidence
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Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities: A Systematic Review of Evidence
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Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities: Implications and Actions for Commissioners
PDF Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities: Implications and Actions for Commissioners
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Health Checks for People with learning disabilities - Easy Read
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