Learning Disabilities: Annual Health Checks
People with learning disabilities often have poorer physical and mental health than other people. This doesn't need to be the case.
The Annual Health Check scheme is 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.
Page reviewed & updated - November 2023
Caring for your health into adulthood is about knowing how best to look after yourself and how to prepare for any changes in the health services you currently receive.
Are you registered with a Local Doctor/ General Practitioner (GP)?
You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.
GP surgeries are usually the first contact if you have a health problem. They can treat many conditions and give health advice. They can also refer you to other NHS services.
Where is your local pharmacy or Chemist? How can it help you?
If you are feeling ill or have a health worry, you might not need to see a doctor and your local pharmacy or chemist can help. Pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you with minor health concerns, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains. Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment.
Are you registered with a dentist?
It is important to have regular check-ups with a dentist. Detecting problems with your teeth and gums early can mean they are easier to treat.
Some people may not be able to get to their local dental practice because of a disability or medical condition. In this case, the dentist should refer you to a more specialised dental service. Ask your dentist or GP what is needed for a referral and if it is suitable in your case.
Thames Valley Community Dental Service provide specialist dental support to children and adults in Berkshire West.
How do you get your eyes/vision tested?
When you visit an opticians for an eye test, you'll be examined by an ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist who will check whether you need glasses and is trained to recognise abnormalities and conditions, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Ophthalmic practitioners and optometrists prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. If necessary, they'll refer you to a GP or a hospital eye clinic for further investigations. In Berkshire West the hospital service is provided by Ophthalmology | Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
How do you get your hearing tested?
It could take a few weeks to see a specialist so it might be quicker to get tested somewhere else, like at a large pharmacy or opticians. This is often free.
You should see your GP first if
Where can you get support with sexual health concerns and contraception?
The Sexual Health Service (Florey Clinic) | Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust is an all-age service. They can provide contraception and support in relation to sexual health and have clinics in Reading, Craven Road and Whitley Health and Social Care Clinic, Berkshire West Community Hospital and Wokingham Community Hospital.
They run drop-in clinics for Under 21s.
Where can you get advice, support and guidance on drug and alcohol use?
Berkshire West offers advice, support and guidance to children and young people on drug and alcohol use, and can also signpost children and young people to other support services for other wellbeing needs. The service focus is on improving your wellbeing and keeping you healthy, happy and safe.
The services available are: -
West Berkshire West Berkshire – The Edge - via (viaorg.uk)
We are focused on you, improving your wellbeing and keeping you healthy, happy and safe.
If you are over 18, free and easy-to-access service to is available to anyone living in Berkshire West impacted by their own or someone else’s use of alcohol and drugs.
West Berkshire West Berkshire - via (viaorg.uk)
Where can you get help and support to be healthier?
You just have to be a Berkshire West resident and/or registered with a GP practice in the county.
The service can help with health and wellbeing such as stopping smoking, being a healthier weight, cutting down on alcohol.
Mental health is something we all have and looking after it into adulthood is just as important as looking after your physical health. When we look after our mental health it can help us to feel more comfortable, in control and able to enjoy the world around us.
Services and Support
Children and young people under 18 can get support for their mental health from Mental and Emotional Health | Children Young People and Families Online Resource (berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk). CAMHS help children and young people who are finding it hard to cope with everyday life because of difficult feelings, behaviour or relationships.
NHS Berkshire Talking Therapies (berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk) offer a range of free, tried and tested NHS psychological therapies that help with:
- Low mood
- Long term health conditions
- Employment support
You can refer yourself to the service by phone, email or text, details are on their website.
If you need to speak to someone outside of NHS Berkshire West Talking Therapies opening hours please contact:
- Berkshire Mental Health Helpline on NHS 111
- Your GP or their Out of Hours Service
- Samaritans 116 123
If the emergency is life threatening:
- Call 999
Further information on services to support adults struggling with their with mental health can be found at NHS Berkshire Talking Therapies (berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk)
How to get an Annual health check for people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI)
Staying healthy and well is important to us all, but it can be especially challenging for people who may be living with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis.
They may be at greater risk of serious physical health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. These can have a huge impact on quality of life and may even shorten it, particularly if they are not picked up in good time.
Anyone aged 18 or over who has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis can have a free annual physical health check with their GP practice once a year. These checks can help you stay healthy and spot the warning signs of serious health concerns earlier.
The sooner your risks are identified, the more you can do to stay healthy and well for longer; and staying physically healthy can also have a positive effect on our general mental health. The physical health check will look at factors like height, weight, blood pressure and signs of conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol levels.
Arranging one is simple – just contact your GP practice for more information and advice. If you are anxious about seeing a doctor or nurse, please let your GP practice know when you arrange the appointment so they can support you with your concerns.
What happens during the annual health check?
Your appointment will take about 45 minutes. Before you have the health check and any tests, the doctor or nurse will check you are happy to go ahead.
The doctor or nurse will usually:
- do a physical check-up, including weight, heart rate and blood pressure
- ask you to pee in a small pot so they can check it for signs of some health problems
- ask you to have a blood test
- talk to you about staying well and ask if you need any help with this
- talk to you about your medicines and ask if you have any side effects
- check if your vaccinations are up to date
- check how you are coping if you have a condition such as asthma or diabetes
They will also ask if you are OK (give your consent) to share your health information with other health services, such as your mental health team. This is to make sure you get the right support if you need further care.
And if you care for someone – a loved one or family member – who lives with serious mental illness, please encourage them to arrange a health check too.
Learning Disability Register and Free Annual Health Check
The learning disabilities register is for anyone with a learning disability, including mild learning disabilities. You can be any age and have any level of learning disability to join the register and get extra support. You are not eligible to be on the learning disability register with a diagnosis of Dyslexia or Dyspraxia without a diagnosis of learning disability as well.
Why should I join the learning disability register?
- Support to improve relationships with your GP
- To get extra support when you visit your GP, and for making appointments
- Staff at your GP surgery will make sure that the information you’re given is clear and easy to understand
- To get a Free Annual health Check when you are 14 and over
- To have a Free annual flu vaccination
How do I get on the learning disability register?
Speak to your GP practice to check if you are on the register. The register is for anyone with a learning disability, including mild learning disabilities. Children with a learning disability can also join the register.
If you are not on your GP’s learning disability register, staff at the GP practice can add your name for you. You will need to make an appointment to tell your doctor that you have a learning disability.
You can be any age and have any level of disability to join the register and get extra support.
It is a good idea for children to join the learning disability register at a young age. This means adjustments and support are put in place before they start using adult services.
Find videos and easy read guides for young people and their parents or carers on Mencaps website. Everything you need to know about the learning disability register | Mencap
Annual Health Check
Did you know if you are If you’re over 14, with a learning disability, on the learning disability register you should receive an annual health check.
It is important that everyone over the age of 14 who is on their doctor’s learning disability register has an annual health check.
Having your annual health check every year, even if you are well, helps you to become confident with the process.
Please contact your GP to make sure that you are on their disability register.
Getting an Annual Health Check is really important because it helps you to be happy and healthy.
An annual health check can help:
- improve people’s health by spotting problems earlier.
- get better treatment – for example new medication
- you to talk to your doctor about anything worrying you
- get advice on lifestyle, such as your diet and exercise
- you be in more control of your health and your body.
- you to feel more comfortable getting support when you are unwell or in an emergency
What happens during an Annual Health Check?
An Annual Health Check normally lasts for up to one hour. You can bring someone with you to the appointment. During the check, the doctor or nurse will:
- check your body, for example weight, heart, and blood pressure take blood and wee samples (if you are happy to)
- talk about your medicines, and your life. For example, they might ask about what food you eat, and how you feel.
Find videos and easy read guides for young people and their parents or carers on Mencaps website. Don’t Miss Out – Annual Health Checks Mencap- external site
This social story reads aloud to you explaining the process and what reasonable adjustments could be made for you at your check. Annual health check ‒ Social story and audio- external site
- you can take your time
- you don’t have to do anything you do not want to do
- the practice can support you with reasonable adjustments when having your health check
If you care for someone – a loved one or family member – who has a learning disability, ask your GP to add them to the register. Please also encourage them to attend a health check too.
Going to Hospital
Staying in hospital
If you are under 16 and need to stay in hospital, you will most likely stay on a children’s ward. Your parent or carer may be able to stay on the ward with you.
Once you are 16 you will stay on an adult ward, Disabled Patients | Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
Specialist Learning Disability and Autism Liaison Nurses
The learning disability liaison team at Royal Berkshire Hospital help adult patients with learning disabilities and autism, and their carers, to access high quality care and have a positive experience in hospital. They will help individuals to feel fully supported and in control over choices relating to their care.
The learning disability nurses provide support with emergency admissions, outpatient appointments and inpatient stays. They also help when you leave hospital, and support families and carers throughout the patient journey.
They do this by:
- making patient letters and leaflets easy to read and understand
- improving the use of patient health passports – a document which helps patients communicate their likes and dislikes
- involving carers and families in the care planning process
- training and supporting our hospital staff to help understand the individual’s needs.
A hospital passport provides important information about individuals with a learning disability and/or autism. This can include any medical conditions, medication, personal details, communication information and care and support requirements.
What happens when you move from a children service to an adult service?
Moving from children's health services to adult health services is a gradual process, starting around 13-14 years old and finishing by the time you turn 18. Feeling confident about this changeover makes things easier and avoids any gaps in the services you receive.
Some of our Berkshire West health services use a programme called Ready Steady Go Hello . The programme is for people with long-term health conditions and provides help and support to address any concerns you have. Royal Berkshire Hospital also offer information on decision making preparing-for-adulthood-making-decisions_sep21.pdf (royalberkshire.nhs.uk)
Your GP and specialist teams should talk about your transition to adult services and how to:
• manage your condition
• learn about your treatment
• gain the confidence to ask questions and be involved in decisions about your care
• know when to get help and who to contact in an emergency
• stay informed about any support networks available
Some other services will arrange one or more appointments where your new health worker attends alongside your current one, so that you can meet them and they can be clear about your needs and plans.
If you have continuing care support as a child/young person, this will be reviewed before your 18th birthday to ensure you still meet criteria for support. If you no longer require the support from the Continuing Healthcare team, your care needs will be transferred to Adult Social Care for assessment.
Where paediatricians are involved in a child’s care they will provide support and coordination across specialities such as cardiology, genetics, orthopaedics etc. As a young person moves into adult services they will need to access the services as individual specialities and will be required to take a more proactive/self care approach to their health needs. Additionally access criteria and approaches for services vary between children’s and adult services, this can lead to changes in delivery of the service.
In order to support YP to transition to adult services, when there is a need to do so, children’s services need to prepare the young person for this change in approach and this should begin in the teenage years. Programmes such as Ready, steady, Go have been developed to support this and are being adopted in Berkshire West alongside transition policies and roles.