The uptake of Annual Health Checks (AHCs) by people with learning disabilities is low in all parts of the Country. It appears to me the NHS needs all the help it can get to ensure numbers increase in general and, in particular, for those from minority groups. However, in a meeting we were invited to of health practitioners in the Midlands area there appeared to be the same old, same old in terms of who is being involved, what is being funded and lack of understanding about the VCS.
Our commissioner from the Northeast Commissioning Unit (NECs) and myself presented our work in terms of what we did, i.e., desk-top research into national guidance of what needs to be done across primary care and the wider health system, in communicating and engaging with BAME communities, and sense-checking discovered trends with local community groups and services.
In summary we learned that -
- One size does not fit all – need for greater personalisation
- Digital exclusion is a barrier to accessing primary care
- Language appears not to be a barrier in some communities
- Lack of awareness that AHC’s are available and their importance is a key barrier
- Lack of understanding about learning disabilities is an issue in wider communities
We shared this with the Midlands NHS group and stressed the need to find a mechanism to engage community groups (including refugees and asylum seekers). We then learned that the main method the Midlands were using was through a newly appointed community nurse located in a GP surgery.
The need to raise awareness of AHC's in communities
Although it was clear this was locating those with learning disabilities in minority communities it appeared very individualistic (limited to those with learning disabilities and their carers) and was not raising awareness in the communities themselves. There appeared also not to be any linking to local voluntary sector organisations who either provide learning disability services or support to minority communities.
What our approach has done is to add value to the investment from NHS England by engaging the voluntary sector, encouraging them to support individuals to access their AHCs, identify the barriers which minority groups face and generally raise awareness of the needs and rights of people with learning disabilities. This is the key message from our work and this must be carried through the next steps which will be -
- Using learning to support Diamond Care Standards for primary care
- Support wider digital inclusion work
- Reasonable adjustment flag - remembering minority communities are diverse even in small localities
- Potential of using a Theory of Change model to identify all the conditions that must be in place to ensure there is uptake of AHCs.
So, this work hasn’t been forgotten about and hopefully we will be able to build on the lessons we have learned, the contacts we have gained and the enthusiasm we have seen.
In February 2007 Craig joined the Planning & Partnership team with a focus on Health & Social Care. He left MVDA in 2010 and re-joined us in August 2014 as Strategic Development Officer. He is currently acting as the partnership manager for both the Middlesbrough Carers Partnership and Middlesbrough Mental Health Partnership as well as leading MVDA’s work around VCS intelligence and supporting the Health and Wellbeing VCS Forum.