Annual Health Checks

19th October 2018

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!