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14th July 2016

The Importance of Health Checks for People with Learning Disabilities

From the age of 14, people with learning disabilities should receive annual health checks from their GPs. Health checks are important to improve the health of people with learning disabilities. Because of this, we have been campaigning for more people to get health checks.

Research shows that regular health checks for people with learning disabilities often uncover treatable health conditions. Most of these are simple to treat and make the person feel better, while sometimes serious illnesses such as cancer are found at an early stage when they can be treated.

If I hadn't gone for a health check I would not have found out that I am diabetic. Now I can manage my condition.

It's not scary

A lot of people with learning disabilities don’t go to the doctors because they are scared and think it will involve needles. It's important for us to tell other people our stories and what it was like for us. I don't think health checks are scary. The doctor will weigh and measure you, do a few tests, and ask you about how you feel. If you feel nervous, you can ask the doctor to explain everything that’s going on

But not enough people have health checks. Oxfordshire’s Health and Wellbeing Board has a target of 60% of people with learning disabilities having a health check each year. Unfortunately this target is nowhere near being met and in 2013/14 it was only 33.4%! We are still waiting for the latest figures, but we will be surprised if it has got better.

How can we make this better?

We are keen to make things better for people with learning disabilities and to help and last year we wrote a proposal and had a meeting with Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group. We talked about how we can make more people with learning disabilities go for their health checks. They asked us loads of questions.

We had lots of ideas. For example, we said that we could give presentations about health checks at day centres and other services, and we could share information by using newspapers and social media.

Overall it was a good meeting. But we haven’t heard from them since. This is a shame, as we really want to move things forward

When it comes to health checks my main memories of our campaigning over the last seven years are lots of nice meetings with lots of nice people from the NHS topped off with very little action.

None of us at My Life My Choice like saying this because we love the NHS and the people that work there. However, I think it is fair to say that we have waited long enough for some action on making health checks for people with learning disabilities a normal part of life But we think the more we talk about it the more chance there is of making a change!

After all, people with learning disabilities are entitled to live long, happy lives just like anybody else.

Pam Bebbington of My Life My ChoiceQCS Expert Learning Disability Contributor


My Life My Choice

MLMC is an Oxfordshire based charity with a national profile whose prime objective is to raise the self-esteem and quality of life for people with learning disabilities. They do this by campaigning, and providing volunteering, training, employment and social opportunities for its members. MLMC also work with other organisations to help produce information for people with learning and communication difficulties that is simple and easy to understand. Read more

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