Annual Health Checks
What is an Annual Health Check?
The NHS through your GP provide an Annual Health Check scheme for adults and young people aged 14 or above with learning disabilities who need more health support and who may otherwise have health conditions that go undetected.
Who will get an Annual Health Check?
People are entitled to a free annual health check from the aged of 14 and over who have been assessed as having moderate, severe or profound learning disabilities, or people with a mild learning disability who have other complex health needs.
What are the benefits of an Annual Health Check?
People with learning disabilities are often unable to or find it difficult to recognising illness, communicate their needs and use health services. Regular health checks for people with learning disabilities can uncover treatable health conditions that may otherwise go untreated. Most of which are simple to treat and make the person feel better, while sometimes serious illnesses such as cancer are found at an early stage when they can be treated.
Having an Annual Health Check can also help with any fears your young person may have going to their GP by having that regular checkup.
How long does an Annual Health Check take?
The health check can take up to one hour, although it can be much quicker depending on:
- how often your young person normally visits their doctor
- their overall health and wellbeing
- their lifestyle (for example, whether they drink alcohol or smoke)
- how much of the consultation they decide to consent to
How do you get an Annual Health Check?
If your young person is aged 14 or above with learning disabilities, are known to their local authority social services, and registered with a GP who knows their medical history, they should be invited by their GP practice to come for an Annual Health Check.
What happens at an Annual Health Check?
The Annual Health Check lets your young person with learning disabilities have aspects of their health checked and allows you or them to talk about anything that is of concern.
During the health check, the GP or practice nurse should carry out the following for them:
- a general physical examination, including checking their weight, heart rate, blood pressure and taking blood and urine samples
- assessing the patient’s behaviour, including asking questions about their lifestyle, and mental health
- a check for epilepsy
- a check on any prescribed medicines the patient is currently taking
- a check on whether any chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes, are being well managed
- a review of any arrangements with other health professionals, such as physiotherapists or speech therapists
If your young person’s learning disability has a specific cause, the GP or practice nurse will often do extra tests for particular health risks. For people with Down’s syndrome, for example, they may do a test to see whether their thyroid is working properly.
The Annual Health Check may also be a good opportunity to review any transitional arrangements that takes place when he or she turns 18.
The GP or practice nurse will also provide any relevant health information, such as advice on healthy eating, exercise, contraception or stop smoking support.
How will the Annual Health Check be tailored to the patient’s needs?
Sometimes your young person’s needs are written down in a health profile or health action plan that the GP or nurse can refer to, the GP can use this to put “reasonable adjustments” in place to have a successful health check. Reasonable adjustments mean changing services so they are easier to use.
These adjustments can include:
- using pictures, large print, and straightforward language to help explain what is happening
- booking longer appointments
- scheduling an appointment that starts at the beginning or end of the day, so people don’t have to wait
Is it compulsory to have an Annual Health Check?
It is NOT compulsory to have an Annual Health Check.
All parts of the health check are voluntary. Anyone who is having the health check, or their carer, can ask the GP or practice nurse for more information about the process. You or your young person can then give consent before any tests or procedures are carried out.