An annual health check can improve people’s health by spotting problems earlier and it gives people the opportunity to talk to their GP or nurse about any health issues that are worrying them.
Anyone over the age of 14 years with a learning disability who is on their GP’s learning disability register is entitled to an annual health check.
The main aims of the annual check up are to identify undetected health conditions early, create a health plan with the patient and make sure that any treatment they are having or medicine being taken is still appropriate.
In Sutton, there are over 1,100 people on the GP learning disability register. Over the past two years, during the Covid-19 pandemic, we became concerned that the uptake of annual health checks was low so we established the Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation Project to support GPs in Sutton to:
- increase uptake of annual health checks to 67% in 2020/21 and 75% for 2021/22
- assess the quality of health action plans and how well they are used
- investigate the barriers people face getting their annual health check
Working in partnership with Sutton Health and Care, the Learning Disablities Health Facilitation Project team was established to support local GPs, comprising two nurses and the learning disabilities strategic health facilitator.
Their first task was to address the barriers people faced getting their annual health check. It was quickly established that the biggest barrier was anxiety about visiting the GP because of the risk of Covid-19 infection. The team set up a service where people were offered an annual health check at home or at clinics based in Green Wrythe Surgery, Carshalton and Jubilee Health Centre, Wallington as an alternative to visiting their GP practice.
The nurses have completed around 220 annual health checks and patient feedback has been very positive, with people saying that the nurses are patient, kind, understanding and caring. The team has been regularly awarded five-stars in the Sutton Health and Care Friends and Family Test.
By March 2021, the target of 67% for uptake of annual health checks was achieved and the team has exceeded their target for 2022 for uptake – 80% of adults with learning disabilities have received an annual health check against a target of 75%.
The project has been extended to March 2023 and the team will also work to increase uptake of annual health checks for young people aged 14 to 19 years old attending specialist schools.
The team was awarded NHS England’s Learning Disabilities exemplar funding for the London region in September 2021. This will allow them to focus on patients who have not had an annual health check in over 13 months and those from communities that are harder to reach or have more negative health outcomes, like people from areas of higher deprivation and homeless people.
Linsu Boniface, Learning Disabilities Health Facilitation Nurse said: “We are concerned that people are worried about visiting their GP practice and catching the Covid-19 virus or that they don’t want to bother their GP because they worry that their GPs are very busy. However, it is at times like this that the health checks are really important for keeping people with learning disabilities safe.”
Our aim is to make sure that all residents in our borough with a learning disability have the opportunity to have a health check every year.”Carly Dalton, Learning Disabilities Strategic Health Facilitator and Service Improvement Programme Manager
“We are working with Sutton GPs to make sure the health checks are meaningful and accessible and we are encouraging anyone who hasn’t yet had one to contact their GP surgery to book a check as soon as possible. This can be at home, at their GP practice or at one of our local clinics in Sutton.”
Dr Robert Calverley, local GP and Place Clinical Lead for Learning Disability for Sutton said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has really highlighted the stark differences in health outcomes experienced by people with learning disabilities.”
“The annual health check is an opportunity for people with learning disabilities to raise any health concerns, discuss the conditions they are already receiving treatment for and find out more information about how to stay healthy in future, for example by taking part in health screening or receiving vaccinations.”
“This health facilitation project has helped support hundreds of people with learning disabilities to have their health checks during the pandemic.”Dr Robert Calverley, Sutton GP and Sutton Clinical Lead for Learning Disabilities
The team are now focused on working with practices to reduce the barriers for those people who have never had an annual health check, so that they will benefit, too. I am delighted that the team has exceeded their target this year and we have delivered health checks to 80% of people with learning disabilities in Sutton. This is a fantastic achievement.”
Dr Dino Pardhanani, Sutton GP and Chair of the Sutton Place Partnership Board, said: “This project has demonstrated that the specialist expertise, knowledge and skills of the learning disability health facilitation team, working with Sutton GPs, can significantly increase the number of annual health checks for people with learning disabilities and improve their health outcomes.”
“Feedback from patients, carers and GPs has been very positive. Patients and carers feel much better supported by the learning disabilities health facilitation nurses who they have said are kind, patient and very caring.”Dr Dino Pardhanani, Sutton GP and Chair of the Sutton Place Partnership Board
“We are very pleased to have been able to extend the project into 2023 and delighted that NHS England has recognised our work with the award of exemplar funding last September.”