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Almost nine in 10 people with a learning disability get annual health check across district


17 May 2021

Despite the COVID pandemic, local health and care providers have delivered annual health checks to 88% of people with a learning disability in 2020-2021 across Bradford District and Craven according to the latest figures released.

Annual health checks are for adults and young people aged 14 or over with a learning disability. Health and care providers across the district have worked together to ensure that they have exceeded the national target of 67% set by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

People with a learning disability often have poorer physical and mental health than other people. Annual health checks are designed to help people stay well and identify any problems sooner to ensure the right care plans are in place.

Not only have health and care providers across the district exceeded the target for annual health checks, they have also increased the number of people on registered as having a learning disability. This means more people being offered tailored care and treatment.

Dr Sara Humphrey, Associate Clinical Director for Frailty, Dementia and Learning Disabilities for NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We started early in June 2020 with a series of Top Tips about undertaking annual health checks virtually during COVID. By the end of 2021, for the first time, all our GP practices are engaged and delivering annual health checks and over 300 people were added to our registers.

“We will also be looking at supporting combined annual health checks and COVID-19 vaccination clinics, especially in those areas with low vaccine uptake. And there will be a focus on supporting people to stay well by accessing cancer screening and immunisation. A recent example of this has seen 15 GP practices flag up 226 people for bowel screening just two weeks after the project went live.

“What we and our practices have achieved has been amazing. However, we aren’t taking our eye off the ball and our focus in 2021/22 will be on the quality of the checks and not just the volume.”

People with a disability across Bradford District and Craven are also benefitting from an approach designed to reduce the number of days someone has to spend in hospital as an inpatient.

Work, involving health and care partners, led by Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust has included a pharmacy specialist being employed to ensure people are offered the right medicines and reduce the prescribing of antipsychotic drugs. Other examples of partnership working include a revised approach to care and treatment reviews that has reduced hospital admissions.

Krystal Hemingway, assistant general manager at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Across our communities we work together as part of the Act as One programme, to keep people ‘happy, healthy at home’. Our combined efforts across colleagues from our trust, social care, day care providers, self-advocacy organisations and primary care resulted in antipsychotic prescribing rates not increasing during the last year. This is testament to the resilience of people with learning disabilities and their families, as well as to the care and support provided by all organisations across the district.”

The learning disability annual health check is different from the NHS Health Check which is offered to those aged 40-74, once every five years. The learning disability register is also different from the register of social care needs managed by local councils.

Anyone aged 14 or over who’s on their GP’s learning disability register can have a free annual health check once a year. People can check with their GP practice if they or the person they care for is on the register.

What happens during the annual health check?

During the health check the GP or practice nurse will:

  • do a physical check-up, including weight, heart rate, blood pressure and taking blood and urine samples
  • talk to you about staying well and if you need any help with this
  • ask about things that are more common if you have a learning disability, such as epilepsy, constipation or problems with swallowing (dysphagia)
  • talk to you about your medicines
  • check to see if your vaccinations are up to date
  • if you have a health problem such as asthma or diabetes, the GP or nurse will check how it’s going
  • check to see if you have any other health appointments, such as physiotherapy or speech therapy
  • ask if family and/or carers are getting the support they need
  • help make sure that things go well when children move to adult services at the age of 18

If someone’s learning disability has a specific cause, the GP or practice nurse will often do extra tests if there are any other health risks.

For people with Down’s syndrome, for example, they may do a test to see if the thyroid gland is working properly.

You’ll be asked for your consent (permission) to share information with other services that provide your care. This will help you get the right support if you go to a hospital, for example.

The GP or practice nurse will also give you health information, such as advice on healthy eating, exercise, contraception or stopping smoking.

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