• Only 55 per cent of people with a learning disability received an annual health check last year
  • Life expectancy for people with learning disabilities remains lower than rest of the population
  • No statistically significant change in life expectancies over the past four years
  • NHS target for health checks introduced in long-term plan

Nearly half of people in England with a learning disability did not receive an annual health check last year, new data has revealed. 

NHS figures released last week showed only 55 per cent of people with learning disabilities had a health check in 2017-18.

Although this has increased from 43 per cent in 2013-14, it is still far short of the new health check uptake target included in the long-term plan. The long-term plan set a goal of having at least 75 per cent of people aged 14 and over with a learning disability get a health check from their GP each year.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at the charity Mencap, said the figure is “shocking” and called on the NHS to start a “targeted campaign” to increase uptake.

He added NHS England should use the forthcoming implementation plan to explain “how they will engage with schools and families to ensure that no one misses out” and should focus on young people because that is where uptake is lowest.

Less than half of people aged 18 to 24 with learning disabilities had a health check last year, NHS figures showed, and no age group had an uptake rate greater than 70 per cent. 

The latest statistics showed a woman with a learning disability had a life expectancy 18 years lower than the population of women without. For men, life expectancy was 14 years lower.

The NHS analysis showed there has been no statistically significant change in life expectancy for men or women with learning disabilities over the past four years.

It also showed people with learning disabilities are considerably less likely to be screened for cancer. This was most pronounced in relative uptake of cervical screening – 31 per cent of women with a learning disability were screened in 2017-18 compared with more than 73 per cent of women without a learning disability.

The long-term plan said “action will be taken to tackle the causes of morbidity and preventable deaths” in this patient group. It identified increasing the proportion of people who receive health checks as its first step towards that ambition.

The latest NHS statistics included details of other variations in healthcare between people with learning disabilities and those without.

The data showed epilepsy prevalence is 25 times greater among people with learning disabilities than without. It also showed more than 8 per cent of people with learning disabilities had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, eight times as prevalent as for those without a learning disability.

Less than half of people with learning disabilities received a flu shot last year.

However, people with a learning disability were nearly two times less likely to have coronary heart disease than those without.

An NHS England spokeswoman told HSJ: “As set out in the long-term plan, the NHS is playing its part to tackle inequalties faced by people with a learning disability or autism by expanding the number of people getting a health check every year, improving access to eyesight, hearing and dental serices for children and offering better support to stop smoking.”