What are Annual Health Checks?
Annual Health Checks are for people aged 14 years or over with a learning disability. They are provided by GP practices with the purpose of reducing premature mortality and improving the health outcomes of people with learning disabilities.
Background to the research
Feedback from the learning disability community in Hertfordshire raised concerns about the uptake and quality of Annual Health Checks locally. Some told us they had never had an annual health check and for those that had, most said that the visit only lasted between 5-10 minutes. This is despite NHS guidance that says Annual Health Checks should last between 30 minutes and 1 hour.
We were also told that it was not always made clear that carers or support workers could attend the appointment, which would have helped many of those feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
What We Did
We worked with our Learning Disability Service Watch Group to co-produce a questionnaire to hear from the learning disability community about their experiences of Annual Health Checks. We also went to Learning Disability Forums across the county to speak to people with learning disabilities about Annual Health Checks. In total we heard from 491 people which is a brilliant result!
Healthwatch Hertfordshire would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who participated in our work and shared their experiences with us. By talking to us, you have helped to make Annual Health Checks better for you and other people with learning disabilities.
What We Found
- Of the respondents who completed the questionnaire, 69% had an Annual Health Check since May 2017 and 31% have never had an Annual Health Check.
- For those who had an Annual Health Check, positive experiences reflected the friendliness and patience of clinicians.
- Concerns were raised regarding the quality of Annual Health Checks, with some service users only receiving a short appointment and a basic examination of their physical and mental health.
- Few GP practices provided information in an easy read format and/or communicated with service users in a way that was accessible for them.
- Some GP practices did not allow service users to bring support with them, and in some cases, staff in supported living accommodation refused to accompany service users.
- Of the respondents who have never had an Annual Health Check, 80% said this was because they were not aware Annual Health Checks existed and/or because they had not been offered an appointment.
- 20% of service users questioned the importance of having an Annual Health Check, and/or noted barriers such as time and confidence.
- Those aged 14-17 years old were less likely to have an Annual Health Check. For those who had, they were given greater choice in terms of their appointment time and clinician.
What Happened Next?
Based on the findings, we made 15 recommendations to providers and commissioners to help improve awareness, information, quality, support and choice.
The responses from Hertfordshire County Council and both Clinical Commissioning Groups can found in the report below.