HEALTH AND CARE: Health checks for people with learning disabilities

The health checks are available for anyone aged 14 and over
The health checks are available for anyone aged 14 and over

The local NHS is working to increase the number of people with learning disabilities who take up their free health checks.

People with learning disabilities have poorer physical and mental health compared to others – but this doesn’t need to be the case.

The NHS wants to address this health inequality by encouraging more people with a learning disability to be registered on their GP learning disability register – giving them the chance to access more support and have an annual health check.

The annual health checks, in particular, are so important as they may detect health conditions which otherwise would go unnoticed.

People with learning disabilities often have difficulty in recognising illness, communicating their needs and using health services.

But research shows that regular health checks can uncovers health conditions which can be simple to treat and make them feel better – while sometimes serious illnesses are found at an early stage when they can be treated.

NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group is working with GP practices across the area to support people with learning disabilities to register and make sure they attend their health check.

The first step is to ensure that patients with a learning disability are on the LD Register, which isn’t always the case.

From this we can make sure they can access the support they need.

If they are not sure whether they are on the register, they, or a relative or carer, should check with the receptionist at their doctor’s surgery and, if they are not, ask for an appointment for their free health check.

The health checks are available for anyone aged 14 and over.

At this health check, your doctor or practice nurse will take a closer look at how you are doing, making sure you are healthy and stay healthy, and update your health record.

They can also provide advice on lifestyle choices, such as diet, stop smoking support or contraception.

The Annual Health Check involves 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; and a review of any arrangements with other health professionals, such as physiotherapists or speech therapists.

If the person’s learning disability has a specific cause, the GP or practice nurse will often do extra tests for particular health risks.

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

Find out more on the NHS choices Live Well website.

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