What your practice can do

People with a learning disability are more likely to have poor physical and mental health and will likely die younger than other people.

Joe Wastell, age 26, Rochester

We are aware of the time pressures on GPs and that this may appear to be yet another claim on your time. However, helping people with a learning disability to stay healthy and to learn to manage their long-term conditions themselves is a valuable use of practice resources. These health checks can prevent more serious illnesses which can result in more expensive interventions and ongoing treatment.

Some people with a learning disability depend upon carers, family or friends to support them with their healthcare even if they are living independently. Carers play an important role in ensuring that patients with a learning disability understand and comply with any advice given before, during and after their annual review.

Preparing for reviews

Make sure that you review your register. Patients appropriately coded and who are over 18 attract a payment for each annual review before end of March. These patients are more at risk and should be priority for appointments. Ensure you have a supply of information for people with learning disabilities.

There are many sources of support and information for patients and carers. Ensure that your practice team is aware and able to access patient information and advice to take account of patients with a learning disability.

Identify a Nurse Champion and encourage the use of practice nurses to deliver part of the learning disability health checks. Keeping GP time free. Identify practice personnel who can encourage attendance by follow up phone-calls and reminders.

Patients’ rights to consent or decline must be respected in line with the Law. Their capacity to consent needs to be considered.

Be proactive about inviting people with learning disabilities, their parents or carers on to your Patient Participation Group.

Conducting annual reviews

How you communicate with your patients with a learning disability, their carers and their families, makes all the difference. Remember, patients with a learning disability may need special arrangements for health reviews. Communication and mobility issues may mean more time, space and sometimes home visits.

Recognise that some patients may have specific health risks due to their condition and may be unable to identify worsening health for themselves.

Use the annual review as an opportunity for health and wellbeing education and an opportunity to screen for chronic disease.

It is up to all of us, including friends, parents, carers, doctors and people who work with us to do everything we can to keep people with learning disabilities here in Medway healthy and happy.

Joe Wastell

Make sure you take a look at the GP practice leaflet and share it with your colleagues.