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NICE urges GPs to review mental health of people with learning disabilities every year

GPs should review the mental health of people with learning disabilities at their yearly health check-ups, NICE chiefs have recommended.

In a new ‘quality standard’ aimed at getting the NHS to adopt new guidance, NICE said that GPs should ‘conduct annual health checks in their patients with learning disabilities that include reviews of mental health problems’.

The standard also calls on CCGs to make sure GP practices are ‘signed up to provide annual health checks that prioritise a review of physical and mental health, for young people and adults with learning disabilities’.

NICE said the review should be used to identify potential mental as well as physical health problems, check how any therapy is going, review medications and agree care plans.

It comes after NHS England set out plans for GPs to review prescriptions of people with learning disability and cut down unnecessary antipsychotic drug use, after a Public Health England report found tens of thousands had been put on the drugs without justification.

NICE said approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and around two-fifths experience mental health problems.

Ian Rogers, carer and topic expert on the NICE quality standard committee, said: ‘We know that people with learning disabilities have an increased risk of experiencing mental health problems.

‘But their symptoms are sometimes wrongly attributed to their learning disabilities or a physical health problem rather than an alteration in their mental health. This needs to change.

‘I hope that by NICE recommending annual mental health checks, alongside the physical health checks we know are becoming routine, we can help those suffering in silence get the help they need.’

  • Young people and adults with learning disabilities should have an annual health check that includes a review of mental health problems.
  • People with learning disabilites who need a mental health assessment should be referrred to a professional with expertise in mental health problems in people with learning disabilities.
  • People with learning disabilities and a serious mental illness should have a key worker to coordinate their care.
  • Psychological interventions (such as talking therapies) should be tailored to patients’ level of understanding.
  • Long-term medications (such as antipsychotic drugs) should be documented every year with reasons for continuing this treatment.

Source: NICE



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