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Annual Health Checks

On Monday we joined forced with Mencap NI to launch our new Annual Health Checks Report, kicking off the charity’s Activism Week. In our blog this week Maeve Hully explains our findings and what we think needs to happen going forward.

Through the work of our Bamford Monitoring Group we held a ‘Healthy Minds Workshop’ in June 2017.  On the day people with a learning disability were asked their experiences of having mental ill health and where they would go to seek help.  Aside from speaking to friends and family, many attendees said they would approach their GP to discuss any issues they may be experiencing and identified the annual health checks service as an important factor in this process.  One of the actions agreed from this workshop was that the Bamford Monitoring Group would undertake a small study to review the user experience of this service.

People with a learning disability often have poorer physical and mental health than other people.  To help address this inequality, many GPs across Northern Ireland offer an Annual Health Check service where people with a learning disability are given the time to discuss their overall health and identify any issues they may be experiencing.  Crucial to this process is the role of the healthcare facilitator, a trained learning disability nurse who identifies those who are eligible for an annual health check within the practice and liaises between them and the GP.  They act as a central point of contact for those with a learning disability and their carers.

We were very pleased to hear that most of the people that took part in our user evaluation were very positive about their experiences of the Annual Health Check service. People with a learning disability and their carers said they were given adequate time to discuss their overall health and any issues they may have been experiencing.  They also felt that they were treated with dignity and respect and that the GP took the time to listen to them.  People also gave very strong praise toward the healthcare facilitator in particular, whom they said kept them informed of appointments and any follow up actions.

Whilst it is good to hear that people really appreciate this service and that it is making a positive difference to people’s lives, there are other areas we feel need worked on.  In particular, people with a learning disability said they often find hospital visits and stays stressful.  We believe that there is scope for a similar role to the healthcare facilitator within a hospital setting to provide advice, support and assurance to people with a learning disability and their carers whenever they attend hospital.

We also feel that people could be better informed about the annual health check service to help increase the number that opt to go for one.  Going forward we will work with the Bamford Monitoring Group and the Health and Social Care Board to improve the information being sent out to eligible patients.

If you’re interested in reading our findings and seeing all the recommendations from our report you can read it here >>

Have you heard of the Annual Health Checks service before?  What do you think of it?  What do you think would encourage people to attend?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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S.Marie Campbell 10-Nov-2018 at 12:07 hrs

I think this annual health check for patients with learning disability is a brilliant idea ! Time for medication review , nip any potential developing medical or mental health deterioration in the bud & make patient feel valued & cared for .In fact I think there should be an annual medical check up on all >50year olds with a view to prevent a lot of preventable chronic illnesses. Information as to what's involved ; the idea & benefits of this check up & that Appt would not be too time consuming should encourage patients to attend .


charlie lynn 21-Oct-2018 at 18:52 hrs

No I have never heard of the annual health checks before but I think it is a really good idea and would give it my full support.


Betty Beamish 20-Oct-2018 at 17:57 hrs

Well done for this work. I note that you mention a specially trained Healthcare Facilitator for people with a learning disability. My area of care is mental illness and I would love to see a specially trained Healthcare facilitator for mental illness in each GP practice; there is such a need and we seem to be the "Cinderella" of Healthcare, often coming last in provision of special care. Any chance of PCC taking this need to those in power?

Kindest regards



Anthony Brady 19-Oct-2018 at 17:29 hrs

There is definitely a huge deficit in the quality of care provided to Learning Disabled patients in hospital and a long overdue case for introduction and consistent application of fair and equal nursing care for this group. I have a copy of a letter I wrote to the Chief Nursing Officer of the former Sperrin Trust: he responds to my expressed concerns about inadequate training and provision of dedicated Learning Disability Nurses. The promise contained in his reply - to actively address the issues - has in the intervening 20 years, never been delivered. Parents and relatives are still required to camp out on the admission and subsequent care wards sometimes for weeks. Doctors and nurses are woefully lacking in knowledge and methods for ensuring the necessary communication skills that determine the best of treatment they wish to give. There is some hope.
Recently, my 43 years old LD son fell during the night in the Care Home room he has occupied for almost two decades. He received emergency assessment for a cut lip and was sent back to the Home. Two days later, he was experiencing acute breathing difficulties and was seen twice during the night by para- medics. On the second visit he was conveyed to A&E in the early hours. By noon the same day, after chest X-ray and intra- venous antibiotic he was discharged. On the way back to the Home the Consultant Radiologist recalled him for on a closer look at the X-Ray: a further X-Ray identified a collapsed lung. My son was admitted.
In the meantime my daughter who lives in Essex, arranged a joint care arrangement where staff from the Care Home and familiar with my son, were stationed on the Ward for 24hours continuous. She had to as part of the arrangement, to ensure payments be sanctioned by the Trust for the learning disability staff in situ.
A further X-Ray identified a fractured rib. The clinical care envisaged options of introducing high pressure oxygen to re-inflate the lung; an invasive inter-costal needle induced aspiration; insertion of a tube to stabilise and equalise positive and negative lung pressures. Fortunately, the effects of bed rest and effective anti-biotic obviated the application of any of these procedures. Thanks to the joint care my son is now back in the Home and post hospital pro tem 1-1 care is established.
The key point here for practice is that with co-operation between relatives, clinical and nursing professionals the best of care can be provided. It worked in this instance because there was recognised leadership of all concerned in my daughter’s role. Crucially, the securing of funding which traditionally has been obstructed by the Trust’s Learning Disability Unit ensured the external body - The Home – gets paid for its input. Although, there are clear grounds for Complaint I am more keen to write this up a Case History and put it to the SWSCTrust as an example of Good Practice. My intention is to offer a template for parents of LD individuals and hospital staff.


Frances MC hugh 19-Oct-2018 at 16:34 hrs

I agree the health checks are very important and we have always had a very positive experience.
One aspect that would improve the service is ; if the nurse had the persons notes from the previous year and use them as a starting point instead of having to go through the whole history on every occasion.