Around 300,000 children and young people in England have a learning disability. People with learning disabilities may have more difficulty than those without in identifying health problems and getting treatment for them.

As well as being less likely to receive treatment, people with a learning disability are more likely to have physical health problems such as epilepsy and diabetes. As a result they have a shorter life expectancy than the general population. The NHS Long Term Plan commits to taking action to tackle the causes of morbidity and preventable deaths in people with a learning disability.

To help reduce this health inequality, NICE recommends that all children, young people and adults with a learning disability should be offered an annual physical health check. These are likely to lead to identification and management of underlying physical health problems at an early stage. Data on how well these health checks are currently delivered are collected by NHS Digital and published as experimental statistics in the Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities.

Health check rates have increased overall, but less than 50% of children and young people receive them

It should be noted that these data are likely to be incomplete. It has been suggested by Public Health England that only 25% of the estimated 1.1 million adults and children in England with a learning disability are recorded on their GP’s register. Improving this would help make sure that everyone who could benefit from a health check is more likely to be offered one.

Although NICE recommends that people of all ages with a learning disability should be offered a health check, NHS England has focused on delivering these to people over 14. The NHS Long Term Plan commits to improving uptake of health checks so that at least 75% of eligible people over 14 get these each year.

I recently took my daughter, who has a learning disability, for a health check at our GP surgery. I’m sorry to say I had to search online what one was, as the GP had never heard of one even though that is why we had booked an appointment. The GP was very nice to my daughter but only took her blood pressure and weighed her. Unfortunately, I still think there is a lot of work to be done in this area. Not what I expected at all.

Mellissa, mother of a 14 year old