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NHS England opens applications for areas to become ‘exemplars’ in learning disability care

by Rachel Carter
17 July 2020

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Integrated care systems (ICSs) and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) can now apply for funding to help improve care for people with learning disabilities.

NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) will appoint seven areas, one in each region, to become ‘exemplar’ sites for learning disability care, as part of a new project.

Successful applicants will receive £35,000 of non-recurrent funding for one year from September 2020 to September 2021, via clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

‘Annual health checks’

A key focus of the exemplar sites will be to increase the uptake of annual health checks available to people with learning disability to at least 75%, NHSE&I said.

Improving the uptake of annual health checks is a commitment of the NHS long-term plan and the new project is ‘intended to add value and complement’ existing work, it said.

By 31 March 2021, sites will be expected to have improved the uptake of checks but also be working to identify and follow up with patients who do not attend and those who have not been offered a check, as well as reviewing the quality of the learning disability register.

The sites will also be expected to improve health action plans for patients aged 14 and over, and increase the number of people with a learning disability getting their flu jab.

‘Poor care’

The launch of the project coincides with the fourth annual report from the Learning Disability Mortality Review (LeDeR), which found people with learning disabilities are four times more likely to die from a treatable medical cause compared with the general public.

Of the deaths notified to the LeDeR programme in 2019, two-fifths of adults and almost a quarter of children with learning disabilities died from pneumonia, the review found.

It also found that 122 adults with learning disabilities were reported to have received care that ‘fell so far short of expected good practice that it significantly impacted on their wellbeing or directly contributed to their cause of death’.

Commenting on the report, Ray James, formerly NHS England’s National Director for Learning Disabilities, said: ‘This important report reminds us why improving the health of people with a learning disability is a priority for the NHS and it is vital we use this to make real and lasting change to help close the health inequality gap seen throughout society.’

Mr James said that ‘annual health checks are crucial in identifying and tackling major health conditions and preventable causes of early death’ and the ‘trailblazing new exemplars’ will be ‘working to rapidly increase uptake to help save lives.’

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic means there has ‘never been a more important time for people with a learning disability to get their flu jab and annual health check.’

‘Experts by experience’

The exemplars will involve the NHS, local authorities and self-advocacy groups or experts by experience and will need to appoint a project lead and senior responsible officer.

Participants will have to demonstrate how they have involved people with learning disabilities and their families in their work, and show how they have engaged with and encouraged young people and those from higher areas of deprivation or BAME groups, to attend their annual health check, NHSE&I said.

They will also need to share learning and good practice and produce a mid-year and end of year report about how annual health checks will be taken forward into 2021/22.

The funding for the exemplars project is separate from and in addition to the network contract DES and the additional role reimbursement scheme (ARRS) for 2020/21.

To make an application, areas should complete the expression of interest form and submit it by 10am on Friday 7 August.


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