People with learning disabilities are being encouraged to attend annual GP check-ups

Health partners in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) have launched a new campaign urging people with learning disabilities to attend their annual health check.

The checks, which are offered to everyone aged 14-plus on GP learning disability registers, are an essential way of improving the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities.

Local take-up of the checks already meets national targets, but health partners are keen to further increase the numbers who benefit.

To support the new drive to boost take-up rates, the local NHS Integrated Care Board has worked with the learning disability charity The Brandon Trust to produce a video in which actors with learning disabilities explain what people can expect during the check-up.

Lesley Le-Pine, Associate for learning disability projects at the BNSSG Integrated Care Board said:

“The national target is for 75% of those on GP learning disability registers to have a health check once a year. In our area, we have reached that target for the last three years running, but we want to do more.

“Our ambition is that 100% of people on a GP practice’s learning disability register should have an annual health check. People with a learning disability often have poorer physical health than other people and we want to change this. Spotting potential problems early is the best way.”

As the video explains, an annual health check involves a physical check-up including weight and blood pressure as well as a medicines review, a mental health check and a chance to talk about any health issues, such as diabetes and cancer screening.

For example, evidence has shown that uptake of breast screening is lower in people with learning disabilities compared to the rest of the population. After the health check, every person is then given a Health Action Plan. This is something they can follow throughout the year that will be discussed again at their next check-up.

Dr Juliane Matthies, a local GP and learning disability lead at the BNSSG Integrated Care Board, said:

“There are certain health problems that are more prevalent in people with learning disabilities, such as problems with eyesight, hearing, heart conditions or constipation. These can be picked up early during an annual health check. It is really important that you attend your annual health check.

“Please check you are on your GP’s learning disability register so you get invited. You are welcome to bring a supporter like a family member or carer. GP practices are happy to make reasonable adjustments to make sure the appointment is stress-free – please let your GP practice know what you need.”

As well as producing the video to encourage learning disability patients to attend, the Integrated Care Board is also working with a group of people with learning disabilities to develop an Easy Read Health Action Plan and is working with community catering group Square Food Foundation to develop the ‘Healthy Me’ Cookery School – a course aimed at teaching people with learning disabilities about healthy eating and basic cooking skills.

Rosi Shepherd, Chief Nursing Officer at the BNSSG Integrated Care Board said:

“As an Integrated Care Board we know that health and wellbeing is so much more than just visiting the doctor. Our research has shown that projects such as the Healthy Me Cookery School make a real difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities – we’ve seen people losing weight, changing their eating habits and learning new skills.

“We want to ensure that our population is happy, healthy and well – initiatives such as annual health checks and the Healthy Me cookery school will help us achieve this.”

Residents who are on their GP’s learning disability register should receive an invitation to attend an annual health check soon. Anyone who thinks they are not on their GP’s register or who has not received an invitation, should contact their local GP.