Experts By Experience help design Learning Disability Friendly award for GP practices leading the way in patient care

An expert by experience (EbE) has praised the creation of a new kitemark standard to help identify GP practices that are actively ‘learning disability friendly’ after developing the scheme with Grapevine, Coventry and Warwickshire’s NHS Integrated Care Board (ICB) and a group of local doctors.

Starco shared her story at last month’s launch event, saying: “It shows that you are a learning disability friendly space, which means if you need extra help… they can actually help you.”

The Learning Disability Friendly Practice logo shows three people's profiles held in a pair of hands. The three figures presents a patient in orange, an NHS worker in blue and a doctor with stethoscope in white.
Look out for this award at your local GP practice.

On average, the life expectancy of a learning disabled person is 14 years and 18 years shorter (for men and women respectively) than that of the general population*.​

Add in the fact that a learning disabled person is also from an ethnic minority background and their average life expectancy reduces to just 34 years old compared to 64*.

These shocking statistics led to a regional campaign in 2020 spearheaded by volunteer EbEs from our Health Team to increase awareness of learning disabled people’s entitlement to an annual health check from the age of 14 with their GP.

Just 39 per cent of local people were taking up this free offer but through collaborative working with NHS partners, promotional posters, flyers, banners, booklets and an animated explainer video, the figure rose to over 71 per cent during 2021.

Documents at the launch on a wooden table inside a conference room with a PowerPoint presentation on screen in the background.
This scheme is open to GP practices in Coventry and Warwickshire.

A lasting legacy of the ‘My Life, My Rights, My Health, My Choice’ campaign is the Learning Disability Friendly Badge – an accreditation that GP practices can apply for and be awarded if they demonstrate four expected standards:

  1. A Learning Disability Champion is identified within the practice
  2. Personalised care is delivered.
  3. High quality Learning Disability Annual Health Checks are delivered.
  4. Reasonable adjustments are made to enable easier access and improve patients’ experience of their care.

Each standard comes with its own set of criteria for which evidence of implementation must be supplied. All of which contributes to an improved, consistent, welcoming standard of care – and greater confidence – for learning disabled people visiting the doctor.

A panel with members from Grapevine (including EbEs), primary care and/or quality team staff from the ICB, the LeDeR programme** and the Community Learning Disability Team will assess new applications.

Grapevine project worker Agatha Devlin said: “In the last two years, the team has helped co-design the name, logo and what they would want a Learning Disability Friendly Practice to look like.

“This project is an amazing example of the health system responding to people-led change with Coventry and Warwickshire ICB and Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust working alongside local learning disabled people to close the gap in health inequalities for them and their peers.”

A young blonde woman stands to read from a piece of paper in front of a room of NHS professionals. Starco is supported by Agatha and Naomi from Grapevine on either side.
Starco speaks to the professionals, with Agatha and Naomi (seated) from Grapevine on either side of her.

Starco concludes: “They will know they are understood. They know if they need to, they can explain that they don’t feel ok or need extra help. Staff will understand the problem more.

“I feel happier that they have brought this out. I know the NHS is accepting us and not pushing us aside. Doctors understand it more now. That is really good.”

Thank you to everyone involved, especially Dr Maisun Elftise, Dr Ayesha Mahmud, Dr Ashia Ahmed, Dougie Philippou, Sophie Meszar, Petty Trowell, Michelle Cresswell, our EbEs and Grapevine project lead Agatha Devlin.

*Sources: NHS Digital 2017, NHS RHO report 2023.

**LeDeR is an NHS service improvement programme for people with a learning disability and autistic people.

What next?

Click this link to watch our animated Annual Health Checks explainer video.

Follow this link for news of the Learning Disability Badge and how GP practices can apply to become a Learning Disability Friendly Practice – plus details of an upcoming webinar on 22 November.

This scheme is open to GP practices in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Look out for news of our new Health Team project worker, starting soon!

The Health Team works within our Help and Connect project for autistic and learning disabled people not receiving statutory care from services – part of our Strengthening People strand of action at Grapevine. Help and Connect is funded by Coventry City Council.