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GPs ‘should prepare’ for learning disability DES changes

25 March 2014

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GPs should get ready to offer health checks to young people with learning disabilities, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned. 

A confidential inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities recommended that the Directed Enhanced Service (DES) for people with learning disabilities be extended. 

From April this year, people with learning disabilities aged 14-17 should be offered a comprehensive annual health check. 

GP practices are now being paid for the health checks on a quarterly basis rather than the end of the financial year, which the RCGP believes will help ‘hard pressed’ GP budgets.

The quality and outcomes framework (QOF) learning disabilities register will be extended from the current guidance of people aged over 18 to include everyone with a learning disability from birth. 

The recommendation aimed to ensure the clear identification of people with learning disabilities on the NHS central registration system and in all healthcare record systems. 

The extension of the register will require clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), paediatricians and local authorities to identify children and young people to GPs.

The inquiry found that three times as many people with learning disabilities die before the age of 50 compared to the general population. 

Dr Matthew Hoghton, medical director of RCGP’s Clinical Innovation & Research Centre (CIRC) and lead investigator of the inquiry, said: “Many GPs will be unaware of some important changes coming in April 2014, but they will need to start planning now if they are to be ready. 

“Young people of 14-17 years with learning disabilities are recognised as being particularly vulnerable to issues around their health and these changes aim to help the transition from children’s to adult services. Particularly if parents aren’t strong advocates for them, this is a time when healthcare needs can fall between the cracks. A truly joined up effort will be needed to ensure that we are successful in helping these young people.”