Pledged health checks still denied to people with learning difficulties

The government is failing to offer all people with learning difficulties health checks more than a year after pledging to do so, Community Care has learned.

The news follows initial findings from a Disability Rights Commission inquiry that people with learning difficulties are more likely to experience some serious physical illnesses than others and face inequalities in primary health services (news, 17 November).

Last November’s public health white paper, Choosing Health, stated that the government would offer disabled people and those with learning difficulties the option of a “health stock-take” and would “shortly consult on proposals to do so”. But there has been no formal consultation and checks have only been offered to certain groups of people with learning difficulties, even though the proposal was trailed in a 2003 Department of Health policy paper, Building on the Best.

Rob Greig, the department’s national director for learning difficulties, admitted that a target, set in the 2001 Valuing People white paper, for all people with learning difficulties to have a health action plan by June 2005 had been missed.

Mencap’s head of policy and campaigns, David Congdon, said it was time the department got its act together. He said: “We know that people with learning difficulties have lots of unmet health needs and there’s evidence that if you do the health checks you can do something about them.”

He called for the health action plan target to be made into a performance indicator for the NHS.

Simone Aspis, development officer at the British Council of Disabled People, which represents groups controlled by disabled people, said people with learning difficulties should be offered the checks as a priority due to their higher incidence of ill health.

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