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GPs urged to prepare for learning difficulties health check changes

GPs must be prepared to offer comprehensive, annual health checks to patients with learning difficulties aged 14-17, when the adult health checks DES specification is expanded in April, the RCGP has warned.

The college said that GPs may not be aware of the changes and urged them to check their readiness as the QOF learning disability register is also due to be extended to cover patients from birth.

The new QOF guidelines will require CCGs, paediatricians and local authorities to identify children to GPs so they can be registered on the central NHS system and on all healthcare networks.

The changes came about as a result of last year’s ‘confidential inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning difficulties (CIPOLD)’ which found three times more people with learning difficulties die before the age of 50.

Dr Matthew Houghton, medical director of the RCGP’s Clinical Innovation and Research Centre and lead investigator in CIPOLD, said GPs need to start planning immediately.

He said: ‘Many GPs will be unaware of some important changes coming in April 2014, but they will need to start planning now if they are to be ready.’

‘It is vital that GPs work closely alongside CCGs, local authorities and their special educational needs departments, local paediatricians and those responsible for neurodisability in order to identify and populate registers with details of young people who have learning disabilities.’

‘Young people of 14-17 years with learning disabilities are recognised as being particularly vulnerable to issues around their health and these changes aim to help the transition from children’s to adult services.’

Other changes include every child with learning difficulties will be entitled to an education, health and care joint plan from September 2014 and NHS England is currently reviewing future mortality surveillance in this group, prior to announcing their future plans.

Practices are now being paid quarterly for health checks to help alleviate budget pressure.