It is well reported that people with a learning disability (LD) experience poorer physical and mental health than the general population, and die earlier. Partly because they are more likely to have secondary disabilities, other health problems, lifestyle and communication issues but also because of an inequality in how they are treated by health and social care services.
As we celebrate Learning Disability Week 2017 (19 – 25 June), Southern Health’s team of LD health facilitators is working hard to tackle this inequality.
The team has been working to provide every GP surgery across Hampshire and Southampton with the learning disability training they require to be able to deliver ‘annual health checks’ for this important group of people. Annual health checks are designed to promote the early detection and treatment of physical and mental health problems, to lead to better health outcomes.
Across the Fareham, Gosport and South East Hampshire area, 100 per cent of GP practices are now signed up to delivering annual health checks, with only five surgeries still to have their training. Across North Hampshire, Basingstoke and Winchester, the figure is 100 per cent with just four still to be trained. In West Hampshire all surgeries have had training (except for one surgery not signed up to deliver health checks). In Southampton, there is a further surgery not signed up and a final four that still need training.
In one example, a Fareham surgery that had completed only 6 per cent of its annual health checks in one year was able to increase this to 100 per cent the following year after receiving training from the local health facilitator.
Amy George, Health Facilitator for the South East Hampshire area, explained: “People with a learning disability are entitled to have an annual health check and local GP surgeries are working hard to improve their uptake of these checks. However, there is room for improvement to achieve the national target of 75%.
“We are working with partner organisations, such as GPs and our local CCGs, to improve primary healthcare services for people with a learning disability and we have a number of joint initiatives that are starting to make a real difference.”
These initiatives include a county-wide conference held last Tuesday for 140 GPs, where local doctors were able to hear examples of best practice in key areas of supporting people with learning disabilities - such as epilepsy, positive behaviour support and cancer screening, as well as annual health checks.
The team has also worked collaboratively to make sure GP registers of people with learning disabilities are as accurate as possible. A computer search now allows practices to look through their patient records and highlight those with a learning disability, to ensure they are being offered their annual health check.
In addition, the team has been involved in the production of posters to be displayed in GP surgeries, advertising annual health checks, and the development of ‘Learning Disability Friendly GP Practice’ criteria to enable surgeries to aim for this accredited status.
To find out more about annual health checks for people with a learning disability, contact your local GP practice.
19 June 2017