Health checks for people with a learning disability
People with a learning disability often find it more difficult to recognise illness, communicate their needs and use health services. The annual physical health check is offered by GPs to anyone aged 14 and over with a learning disability, to check their physical health, including looking for health conditions that may otherwise go undetected. It’s a free NHS service designed to pick up and sort out any health problems at an early stage.
What does the health check involve?
At the health check, you will be given a general physical examination, including checking your weight, heart rate and blood pressure, and you may be given a blood or urine test. Any medication you take will be reviewed and there will be a check on any existing health condition you might have, like diabetes or asthma, and how well it’s being managed. The GP or practice nurse will also give any relevant health information, like advice on healthy eating, exercise, contraception or stop smoking support.
Usually your GP practice will invite you for a health check, but if you’ve never had one, or if it’s been a couple of years since your last one, you can speak to your GP practice and ask them when you should have it. Also, if you care for someone with a learning disability, you can contact the practice on their behalf to make an appointment for them.
To help explain what to expect from the health checks, we have produced an easy-read booklet, which uses symbols and pictures to make it easier to understand. It is also available in Gujarati, Punjabi and Urdu.
“If someone asked me about going for a health check, I’d tell them to go and find out what their health’s like and if there’s anything wrong, because I did. I went and found out what’s wrong with me. Don’t be nervous, it’s just a normal health check and it’s really helped me.
The nurse told me I have Type 2 Diabetes and asthma and arthritis. It was a shock at first, but it’s a good thing to know, so I can do more exercise and change my diet and look after myself better. The nurse gave me a food chart about what’s good and not good to eat and she explained it to me really well. She also gave me an inhaler with a spacer to help with my asthma, she showed me how to use it, it’s quite easy.
It was hard to make changes to my diet at first, but then I got used to it. I do more exercise now, lots of walking and I like jogging on the spot. Since I made the changes I feel different – lighter and more healthy.”
Ranjit was worried about his balance and getting around, as he’d had a few falls recently; as a result of his health check he was referred to a physiotherapist. “It is really important you go for your health check, your health’s very important, as the saying goes: ‘You can have all the money in the world but if you haven’t got your health you’ve got nothing’. You only have one life, so go for it! Just answer the questions they ask you. I had a good experience and I’ll try and follow their advice to keep me healthy.”