Checking in with Annual Health Checks six months into campaign

In September we launched a year-long campaign to bring awareness to the importance of annual health checks for people with learning disabilities.

What gave the campaign urgency were the shocking mortality rates for people with a learning disability who were dying up to 27 years younger* than the general population, many from preventable causes.

What made the campaign different was that it was designed by people who had learning disabilities themselves and wanted to help more people than ever before access an annual health check. A regular check they are entitled to from a GP that could help save their life.

We’ve reached halfway – so how are we doing?

“My life should be a healthy, long, enjoyable one – the same as my friends and everyone else.”

The Health Team has stepped up

The Health Team at Grapevine is made up of people with learning disabilities, supported by two of our project workers (Jo and Sam) to reduce health inequalities for their peers, improving their health outcomes and access to health services.

Pre-pandemic, the team (John, Tina, Billy and Rachel) were delivering regular sessions on annual health checks direct to people with learning disabilities through their Top 2 Toe healthy lifestyle programme. A number of GP practices took up their offer of learning disability awareness training.

But a wider campaign was needed to reach out to people and services to increase awareness of the checks and ultimately, the number of eligible people having the checks.

Who’s in the Crew?

The Campaign Crew are passionate experts by experience. Five Health Team members volunteered to form the crew, devising their own ‘My Life, My Rights, My Health, My Choice’ slogan. They are Joanne (a Grapevine trustee), Ashley, Shannon, Susie and Heather.

They are supported by Grapevine, Coventry City Council and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group for Coventry and Warwickshire.

Their annual health checks campaign is striving for:

  • A better understanding of, entitlement to and access to an annual health check for people with learning disabilities living in Coventry and Warwickshire
  • A better understanding of annual health checks and their value in preventative care among stakeholders
  • Every GP practice in Coventry and Warwickshire signing up to deliver the enhanced service for annual health checks – leading to more people having one each year.

“Despite the pandemic, we took up the challenge and still delivered the campaign!

“100 percent of GPs have now signed up to deliver the enhanced Annual Health Checks service. And many more people with learning disabilities, public services and organisations know about them too.” (Jo Tasker, The Health Team)

Annual Health Check booklet
A booklet takes patients through the process, answering frequently asked questions
Promotional tools

Even in lockdown, the campaign crew pushed forward with production of posters, flyers, pull-up event banners, booklets and an animated explainer video.

Everything is available in digital or print format, including GP patient booklets sent out prior to an annual health check appointment and a patient guide plus easy-read format invitation letter.

They are readily available through CCG and GP online portals. And thanks to the promotional campaign, health professionals know more widely where to access them. The more detailed training booklet is used by the Health Team in their workshops and has been shared widely.

The two-minute animated explainer takes visual and audio accessibility into account, using simple graphics to introduce annual health checks and address any potential worries about the process.

Taking aim

The campaign targets 14 – 25 year-olds with a learning disability living in Coventry and Warwickshire, directly and through GP practices, health services, schools and colleges, care providers, SEND services, independent services and parents and carers.

It is delivered through funding provided by NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Transforming Care Partnership, Coventry City Council and Coventry and Warwickshire Year of Wellbeing team.

“It is amazing to see the volume of activity that has taken place during the last six months in Coventry and Warwickshire.

“To see people with learning disabilities take such an active role in raising awareness of these important checks is fantastic and so powerful to the audience – be it professionals or their peers.” (Jo Galloway, Chief Nursing Officer and Deputy Accountable Officer for NHS Warwickshire North and NHS Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Groups).

Ready, set, launch!

September 2020 – between lockdowns but still virtual! It was attended by over 40 people from health, social care and education professions, plus care providers, the voluntary sector, parents, carers and people with learning disabilities.

The event included the campaign overview, an opportunity to meet the campaign crew, barriers to overcome and how we might do this, and pledges to support and make change happen.

Pledges to act

The collaborative launch helped unite and invigorate people on a mission for improved health and longer, stronger lives for people with learning disabilities.

  • Leaders in Coventry’s Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Services included the campaign in their bulletins.
  • Working practices are being adapted to add awareness of annual health checks to the Year 9 and Year 11 transition processes.
  • Relationships with special schools and colleges were strengthened and bespoke workshops for parent carers scheduled.
  • Campaign promotion appeared across partner websites.
  • Every GP practice has signed up to deliver enhanced annual health checks, virtually, over the phone or in person.
  • Resources and training to support the delivery are in place, with further plans to adapt and update the training again in 2021.
  • Central England Law Centre researched barriers to getting an annual health check and examined the impact of the pandemic on people’s access to a check.
  • Social care services and charity partners like the Heart of England Carers Trust are also playing a key role in ensuring staff know the process and the rights of people they are working with.
  • The Health Team meanwhile brought awareness training workshops to education professionals and students, to GPs and practice managers and to their peers on Grapevine’s own Help and Connect project in Coventry.

More detail on campaign tactics and achievements can be found in the Annual Health Checks Campaign six-month report.

The statistics are changing

Between April and September 2020, the Learning Disabilities Reducing Health Inequalities Steering Group reported a 25 percent increase in the number of annual health checks in Coventry and Warwickshire. This period pre-dates the official campaign launch but not ongoing awareness training by the Health Team. The increase is especially encouraging against the backdrop of COVID-19.

What next?

The campaign continues for another six months with more workshops and awareness raising activities planned in 2021.

The team will also follow up on the Law Centre’s report into the effect of the pandemic on access to checks and continue to seek out further avenues for promotion.

The Campaign Crew members are themselves growing in confidence as they hone their leadership and communication skills and find new ways to explain the importance of getting an annual health check to the people who matter most in their campaign – people with learning disabilities and their right to a long, happy life.

There will be a final report in August when we hope to be able to report even more of an increase in the number of annual health checks that have been carried out.

All of our promotional materials are available in digital or printed format. Email for more information.

Annual Health Checks – Knowledge Bank

What is an annual health check?

Annual Health Checks with your local GP are free and available for people who have a learning disability from the age of 14. They can help to identify health needs from young adulthood and also offer an opportunity to assess general wellbeing and mental health.

The scheme aims to:

  • Encourage GPs to identify all patients with a learning disability, aged 14 and over
  • Maintain a ‘Learning Disabilities Register’
  • Offer an annual health check, to include a personalised Health Action Plan.
What are the benefits?
  • Identify undetected health conditions and unmet needs
  • Ensure any ongoing treatments are still appropriate
  • Establish trust and continuity of health care
  • Open up greater patient independence and choice.
The statistics

Just 39 per cent of people with learning disabilities in Coventry and Warwickshire had an annual health check in 2019. This low take up contributes to people dying from preventable and treatable health conditions much sooner than people who don’t have a learning disability:

  • 27 years younger on average for women.*
  • 22 years younger for men on average.*

Around four in 10 deaths of people with learning disabilities were from avoidable medical causes, compared to two in 10 for the general population.*

*Statistics from the LeDeR Report, 2019.

What do I do next?

Contact your GP directly to discuss booking an annual health check as soon as possible. Watch our video of the process in action here.