For Families and Carers : Annual Health Checks

Health Book Cover

What is an annual health check?

In the past people with learning disabilities have not had equal access to healthcare compared to the general population. This, amongst other reasons, has given rise to poorer mental and physical health and a lower life expectancy for people with learning disabilities. Free annual health checks for adults with learning disabilities, with their GP, were introduced as a way to improve people’s quality of life.

The annual health check for people with learning disabilities is a Directed Enhanced Service (DES). This is a special service or activity provided by GP practices that has been negotiated nationally. Practices can choose whether or not to provide this service. The Learning Disability DES was introduced in 2008 to improve healthcare and provide annual health checks for adults on the local authority learning disability register. To participate in this DES, staff from the GP practice need to attend a multi-professional education session run by their local Trust. The GP practice is then paid a sum of money for every annual health check undertaken.

Who can have one?

Annual health checks have been extended to include anyone with learning disabilities aged 14 years or above. So anyone with Down’s syndrome aged 14 years or over can have an annual health check.

DSA Health Book

We have produced an easy read Health Book for people with Down’s syndrome to take to their annual health check and to other health appointments. There is a part of the Health Book for people with Down’s syndrome to fill out (with support if needed) and a part for GPs to fill out.

We hope the Health Book:

  • Gives teenagers and adults a sense of ownership over, and involvement in, their own health care.
  • Helps improve long term record keeping which will benefit people with Down’s syndrome, medical practitioners and others who provide support.
  • Gives GPs a simple tool to guide them through the necessary health checks.

All of DSA’s members with Down’s syndrome who are 14 years old or over will be sent a free copy of the Health Book. You can download the following here:

  • a complete copy or individual pages
  • letter for a DSA Member 14-17 years old
  • letter for a DSA Member 18+ years old
  • letter for your GP
  • checklist of things should be included as part of a comprehensive and thorough Annual Health Check.

The benefits of annual health checks

  • additional support to get the right healthcare
  • increased chance of detecting unmet, unrecognised and potentially treatable health conditions
  • action can be taken to address these health needs.

How to get an annual health check

  • The GP may get in touch with the person with Down’s syndrome to offer an annual health check but this doesn’t always happen.
  • A person with Down’s syndrome and/or a supporter can ask their GP for an annual health check. You do not need to be known to social services to ask for an annual health check.

Not all GPs do annual health checks for people with learning disabilities but they should be able to provide details of other GPs in your area who offer this service.

What happens next?

  • The GP practice may send out a pre-check questionnaire to be filled out before the annual health check takes place.
  • The GP may arrange for the person with Down’s syndrome to have a routine blood test a week or so before the annual health check.

Who attends the annual health check?

If the person with Down’s syndrome (age 16 years or over) has capacity and gives their consent, a parent or supporter can attend the health check as well.

How long should an annual health check be?

Guidance from the Royal College of GPs suggests half an hour with your GP and half an hour with the Practice nurse.

What areas of health should be looked at as part of the annual health check?

We have produced a check list for GPs which contains information about what should be included as part of a comprehensive and thorough annual health check. This includes a list of checks that everyone with a learning disability should undergo as part of an annual health check and a list of checks specific to people with Down’s syndrome. The check list can be downloaded here.

My Health Book Film

Watch this short film to see members of one of our Having a Voice groups talk about how they keep healthy and use their Health Books.

Information for GPs

Let your GP know that there is a page on DSA’s website with information for GPs about health conditions that are more common in people with Down’s syndrome here. The link for this web page is also printed on the pages of the Health Book aimed at GPs.

Adult Cardiac Disease Diabetes Hypertension
Alzheimer’s Disease Ear and Hearing Issues Orthopaedic Problems
Cervical Spine Problems Epilepsy Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections
Continence Problems Eye Conditions Sleep Problems
Dental Gastrointestinal Disorders Thyroid Dysfunction
Depression Hypercholesterolaemial Vitamin B12 Deficiency

What happens after the annual health check?

Your GP should tell you what they and the nurse have found during the annual health check. You should have a chance to ask any questions you have. Your GP may refer you to specialist services for further tests as appropriate. Ideally, people with learning disabilities should have a Health Action Plan. This a personal plan about what to do to keep healthy. Actions from the annual health check should be included in a Health Action Plan. Talk to your GP if you do not have a Health Action Plan.

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