NICE leaders have suggested that GPs should review the mental health of those with learning disabilities during their annual health checkups.
This new quality standard introduced by NICE is intended to ensure that the NHS standardises guidance.
And the Healthcare authority recommends that GPs working within the NHS system should “conduct annual health checks in their patients with learning disabilities that include reviews of mental health problems”.
The new standard also requires clinical commissioning groups throughout the NHS system to ensure that GP practices are “signed up to provide annual health checks that prioritise a review of physical and mental health, for young people and adults with learning disabilities’.
NICE indicated its position that the annual review should be utilised in order to identify potential mental as well as physical health difficulties.
In addition, checking on existing therapies and reviewing medication arrangements should be carried out within the appointment.
NHS England has already outlined its plans for doctors within general practice to review the prescriptions of those with learning disabilities.
This is intended to reduce the level of antipsychotic drug use in England, following the publication of a Public Health England report which indicated that tens of thousands of unnecessary prescriptions are made of such drugs on an annual basis.
Ian Rogers, carer and topic expert on the NICE quality standard committee, suggested that the link between mental and physical health difficulties is well established.
“We know that people with learning disabilities have an increased risk of experiencing mental health problems. But their symptoms are sometimes wrongly attributed to their learning disabilities or a physical health problem rather than an alteration in their mental health. This needs to change. I hope that by NICE recommending annual mental health checks, alongside the physical health checks we know are becoming routine, we can help those suffering in silence get the help they need.”
NICE also suggests that those with learning disabilities requiring a mental health assessment should be referred to a professionals with expertise in mental health problems in people with learning disabilities, while care workers should also be assigned in order to coordinate care.
Meanwhile, NICE also recommends that the way psychological interventions and long-term medications are conducted should be tweaked.
NICE figures indicate that 1.5 million individuals in the UK current have a learning disability of some sort, while as many as two-fifths experience mental health difficulties.