In summer 2019 we received a #SpeakUp Grant to explore the awareness of and experiences of people with learning disabilities regarding annual health checks (AHCs). We carried out research with more than 50 people, including our members and their carers, and produced a report of our findings and recommendations, called My Health.
This work was part of a larger programme, funded by Healthwatch Sheffield to carry out engagement work with communities about their experience of health and social care services in the City.
Our findings told us that there is good awareness of AHCs, what happens at them and why they are important, and that reasonable adjustments are very important to people when accessing their health checks. We found that there is a lack of consistency in some practices in the delivery of AHCs and that it is very important for people with a learning disability to have someone with them to go to their annual health checks.
We made a series of recommendations in our report and we issued a press release to local media and health organisations to raise awareness of our findings and recommendations. You can read the read release below, and you can read our report here: Mencap Speak Up My Health Report
More support needed for people with learning disabilities to access health checks
Local charity, Sheffield Mencap & Gateway is calling for greater support for people with learning disabilities to access Annual Health Checks (AHCs).
In a recent report commissioned by Healthwatch Sheffield as part of its #SpeakUp campaign, the learning disability specialists revealed that people who receive limited support are less likely to attend their AHC, and in some cases, they are unlikely to know what an AHC is. The research also shows that there is a lack of consistency in the delivery of AHCs across some GP practices, and that some may not be offering them at all.
Sheffield Mencap & Gateway carried out research with more than 54 individuals including its members and their carers. Whilst more than half of those spoken to are aware of AHCs and attend them annually, these are primarily people who live with a carer or receive regular support. Those that were not aware of AHCs tended to have mild to moderate learning disabilities and only received limited help from a support worker or service provider like Sheffield Mencap & Gateway.
According to national research from Public Health England, the life expectancy of people with learning disabilities is almost 20 years less than the general population. AHCs are designed to address health inequalities and reduce premature mortality by providing an opportunity for a comprehensive “head to toe” health check with a person’s GP and practice nurse.
Based on the research findings, Sheffield Mencap & Gateway has made a series of recommendations which it is calling on Sheffield GP practices to act upon. This includes consistency in the delivery of AHCs across the city, to ensure equal opportunities, and more help for individuals who have less support at home, to understand and attend their AHCs.
Senior Manager, Dave Swindlehurst explains,
“Whilst it is good to see that many of our members are attending their AHCs, our research has shown us that some people still do not know what an AHC is and why it is important. These are people that do not access support regularly and often do not have anybody living with them that can help to arrange and attend an AHC. This has to change.
“AHCs can be key to the early identification of health issues and even prevention. We have to ensure that AHCs are accessible, both in terms of understanding their purpose and attending them. It is also necessary to review delivery practices to ensure that the check itself is thorough, the person is supported to communicate any health issues, and that they understand what their GP is telling them.”
Sheffield Mencap & Gateway is soon to launch a new project which it hopes will improve the delivery of healthcare to women with learning disabilities in Sheffield. Women’s Health At Mencap will support the improvement of communication and delivery of services by local GP practices, to ensure that women with learning disabilities are aware of and able to attend screenings and health checks available to them.
“We are delighted to have received funding to deliver this important piece of work which we hope will transform the health outcomes for women with learning disabilities in Sheffield. We are currently speaking to GP practices who want to engage with more women and deliver better health care to them. By setting up models of best practice through the project, we hope all GP practices in the city, and beyond, can learn from them to make a lasting positive difference to many lives.”
You can read the full set of findings and recommendations by reading the report, My Health which can be found on Sheffield Healthwatch’s website: www.healthwatchsheffield.co.uk/speakup-small-grants/.