People with learning disabilities often have difficulty in recognising illness, communicating their needs and using health services.
The County Durham CCGs worked in partnership with Durham County Council and Healthwatch County Durham to better understand the problems experienced by people with learning disabilities at their annual health checks.
The aim of the work was to encourage more people with learning disabilities to attend free annual health-checks.
Healthwatch County Durham (HWCD) spoke to 100 people with a learning disability and discovered there was a problem with the invitation letter.
Durham County Council’s People’s Parliament developed an ‘easy invite’ that was sent to all people with a learning disability in County Durham. The aim was for the letter to be an easy reading format so people can read it unaided and so reduce anxiety around annual health checks.
The aim of the letter was to encourage more people with a learning disability to be on their GP learning disability register. Registration also means more help is available to them.
Following the Healthwatch County Durham recommendations, Shinwell Medical Group are piloting health checks in a community setting. People aged 14 and over who have been assessed as having moderate, severe or profound learning disabilities, or people with a mild learning disability who have other complex health needs, are entitled to the free health check.
Health checks involve a general physical examination, including:
- checking their weight, heart rate,
- blood pressure and taking blood and urine samples;
- asking questions about their lifestyle and mental health;
- a check for epilepsy;
- a check on their prescribed medication;
- a check on whether any chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes, are being well managed;
- a review of any arrangements with other health professionals, such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, dieticians or other specialists.
It is also a good time to check they are up to date with immunisations, the flu vaccine and any screening tests for cancer.