GPs are conducting rising numbers of health checks in patients with learning difficulties, but most are still missing out on the annual assessments, say researchers.
The figures come despite a long-standing direct enhanced service being in place to incentivise practices to conduct BMI, blood pressure and visual checks in patients with learning disabilities.
The researchers from the University of Manchester, said the low level of checks meant that the Government should look at redesigning the DES to make it more attractive to practices.
But theyalso concluded from interviewing GPs and nurses that it the Department of Health should continue the current funding, as it was having an impact on the care that patients with learning difficulties receive.
The DH has said that it had looked at the evidence, that was presented at the Society for Academic Primary Care this month.
They looked at anonymised clinical data from over 3,600 learning disability patients registered at 166 practices in six PCTs from April 2009 to March 2011.
Not all practices were signed up to the DES, but 120 practices in 2009/10 and 142 in 2010/11 were providing regular checks to patients with learning difficulties.
Despite this, only 31% of patients with a learning disability received an annual health check in 2009/10, although this rose to 42% of patients in 2010/11.
They found it was often the checks that were not included in QOF, such as visual and hearing assessments, that were not being carried out. Patients had a 21% increased likelihood of having QOF-related checks, such as blood pressure and BMI checks, compared with a 19% increased ikelihood of achieving non-QOF checks.
Dr Umesh Chauhan, lead author and a GP in Lancashire, told Pulse: ‘We need to do further research but any redesign of the health check should be in collaboration with people with learning disability and carers as well as health professionals.’
A spokesperson from the DH said they were looking at the evidence. He said: ‘We remain committed to improving the health of people with learning disabilities and we have already been in contact with Dr Chauhan to discuss his results.
‘There are no current plans to withdraw the DES for Learning Disabilities.’
But Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘The DES is quite clear and is available for every practice to take up, but there are a number of reasons why uptake varies.
‘Practices are already struggling under significant workload and are having to make difficult choices as a result. Also the support of PCTs to help with this work is important and that has been lacking from many and in particular during the current reorganisational chaos.’
Number of patients receiving checks
2009/10 – 31%
2010/11 – 42%