Patients with learning disabilities missing out on health checks – BBC News

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Patients in England with learning disabilities are missing out on vital health checks, NHS data shows.

These include cancer screening, blood pressure checks and mental health assessments.

Only about half of women with learning disabilities in England received breast cancer screening last year, compared with about 70% of eligible women overall.

NHS England said the number having an annual health check was on the rise.

Fewer than half of patients received the recommended annual health check.

This meant they were not accessing support including checks for epilepsy and chronic conditions such as asthma.

The NHS recommends that people with learning disabilities and other complex health needs receive a general physical examination and review of any medicines they have been prescribed every year.

The NHS Digital report looked at patients with and without learning disabilities from more than half of GP practices in England. This covered about 60% of all patients registered with a GP.

The researchers found that, on average, patients with learning disabilities had a 16-year shorter life expectancy than the general population.

People with learning disabilities are also entitled to extra time in GP appointments. Patients are generally allotted 10 minutes or less with their GP.

An NHS England spokesperson said of the report: “The latest figures show the number of patients on a GP learning disabilities register who are receiving an annual health check is increasing but we want to go further.

“It is important that people tell their doctor about their learning disability to make sure they receive extra support.”

‘Incredibly difficult’

Learning disability charity Mencap is running a campaign to ensure people know they can register with their doctor as having a learning disability and access this extra support.

GPs can then make accommodations, for example calling patients to ensure they make appointments.

The charity says people with learning disabilities might have more difficulty accessing healthcare than the general population because of a lack of accessible transport, anxiety, low confidence or lack of understanding from staff.

Commenting on the low take-up of annual health checks, Mencap’s strategic development manager for health Rachel Ashcroft, said: “Visiting the GP can be incredibly difficult if you have a learning disability.

“Being on the GP’s learning disability register can ensure healthcare is much more accessible and can result in better health outcomes for people with a learning disability.”

She said Mencap estimates there are 1,200 avoidable deaths a year of people with a learning disability.

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