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Learning Disability Week highlights the importance of annual NHS health checks

16th June 2021 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

During Learning Disability Week (14th – 20th June 2021) NHS bosses in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) are encouraging people with a learning disability to make sure they have their annual health check.

Compared with other people, those 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 therefore 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.

Dr Gopi Boora, GP and clinical lead for learning disabilities for the three LLR City Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “If you have a learning disability, do take up the offer of a health check. It’s a free NHS service designed to pick up and sort out any health problems at an early stage.

“It’s also a perfect time to ask about anything that’s worrying you and to get to know your GP practice. We understand that you might feel nervous about seeing a GP or nurse, especially if you’re not used to it, but there’s really no need to worry, and a health check is something you could find really helpful. Don’t miss out!”

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland is one of just nine areas across the country chosen by NHS England to be part of a pilot project looking to increase the number of patients with a learning disability who go for their annual health check.

The project provided a specialist nurse who, since January 2021, has been contacting patients who have not been for their annual health check for two years or more and talking to them and their carers, to explain how the health checks can help them and to ask if there are any changes that can be made which will make it easier for the patient to attend.

This has resulted in forty patients who had not been seen for more than two years successfully having their health check. This includes a patient whose health check was seven years overdue, which led to several health action points being identified, and four patients who were able to receive their covid vaccine and health checks in the care home where they live, rather than having to go somewhere new and unfamiliar to be vaccinated.

Dr Boora added: “Often there are simple adjustments that we can make, to help the patient feel more comfortable and confident about having their annual health check. Having a call from a specialist nurse is the first step in reaching out to our patients and finding out how we can make things easier for them.”

At the health check, each patient is given a general physical examination, including checking their weight, heart rate and blood pressure, and they may be given a blood or urine test. Any medication they take will be reviewed and there will be a check on any existing health condition, 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. Each person will receive a health action plan to take away with them providing information on their health needs, what will happen, who will help and when this will be reviewed.

Dr Boora said: “If you have a learning disability and you’ve never had a health check, or if it’s been a couple of years since your last one, you can speak to your GP practice and ask them to book you in for one. Also, if you care for someone with a learning disability, you can contact the practice on their behalf to make an appointment for them. We want to make sure no-one misses out on their health check, as it could make a real difference.”

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