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Pilot schemes needed to improve annual health checks for people with a learning disability

by James Hacker
11 June 2021

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NHS England has called for the development of local pilot sites to support efforts to improve annual health checks (AHCs) for people with a learning disability.

In a report published on 9 June, the health service outlined its ambition for local community and specialist learning disability service providers to collaborate with general practice to improve AHCs.

NHSE said that the project aims to identify methods of engagement with patients who do not attend for AHCs, and to help identify people from under-represented groups, such as areas of higher deprivation or by ethnicity.

However, it stressed that the responsibility for the delivery of AHCs will remain with individual GP practices, in line with line with DES and QOF.

NHSE said the ‘project aims to build on, and not to detract or undermine, these principles’.

It also said that the benefits to the programme would include detecting and managing conditions earlier, and to increase AHC uptake.

The NHS Long Term Plan set an ambition that by 2023/24, at least 75% of people aged 14 and over on the learning disability register receive an AHC.

Data published separately yesterday (10 June) showed that 74% of eligible people received an AHC two years ahead of this target.

Non-traditional solutions

NHSE said it is now welcoming proposals for ‘non-traditional’ delivery which ‘complement existing local arrangements’ for accountability and responsibility.

The report said: ‘Working beyond organisational and professional boundaries, pilot sites will work locally with wider partners for example, bringing together the NHS, local authorities, voluntary and the community sector and experts by experience and self-advocacy groups to design, test and implement different ways of working to help address complex issues known to adversely impact the health of people with a learning disability.’

It aims to establish one pilot site in each of the seven NHSE regions, with a £35,000 grant available per site, available from October 2021 to September 2022.

The comes shortly after a study found that almost half (46%) of 433 adults with learning disabilities who usually have an annual health check had not received one since the first lockdown in March 2020.

Earlier in the year, patients on the learning disability register were prioritised for Covid vaccination after data showed a ‘higher risk of mortality and morbidity’ for this group.


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