Learning Disabilities Patients Missing Vital Health Checks

NHS data indicates that patients in England suffering from learning disabilities are frequently denied critical health checks.

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

While 70% of women eligible for breast cancer screening received checks over the last 12 months, this declined to 50% for those with learning disabilities.

But despite this discouraging news, NHS England noted that the number signing up for the annual health check had increased.

The NHS Digital report examined patients with and without learning disabilities from more than half of GP practices in England.

And data emerged which demonstrates that patients with learning disabilities can expect to live 16 years less than the general population; a rather disturbing figure.

Commenting on the report, an NHS England spokesman urged those with learning disabilities to make their situation clear to general practitioners.

“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.”

In an attempt to raise awareness of the issue, learning disability charity Mencap has launched a new campaign.

Mencap will encourage those with learning disabilities to register with doctors in order for this to be acknowledged, effectively gaining access to additional support as a result.

Once it is officially acknowledged that a patient has a learning disability, they can then gain access to various services.

For example, GPs will make accommodations for them, calling patients to ensure that they make appointments.

Mencap states that 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, suggested that the whole service needs to do more in order to make those with learning difficulties feel comfortable.

“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.”

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

Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, while between 25 and 40% of people with learning disabilities also experience some form of mental health problems.


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