When working with vulnerable patients, such as patients with learning disabilities whose voices are often not heard, it can take a while to identify the diagnosis, ensuring that diagnostic shadowing is not taking place.
Sometimes consultations involve third parties who feed into what normal and unusual behaviour is for the patient. Sometimes the patient with a learning disability does not want to stand out from the crowd and so he or she agrees with everything you say and it is hard to extract the true symptoms.
The law rightly tells us that we must make these reasonable adjustments whether through extra time with them in double consultations, using READ codes to help provide a better service, providing annual health checks or using accessible health information to explain their diagnosis.
But despite the DES funding, less than half the population with learning disabilities are receiving an annual health check, even though in more than 50% of cases, they uncover treatable conditions and underlying health problems.
Providing the best service possible to these patients takes extra time and often requires creative thinking to explore the correct diagnosis and treatment for maximum long-term impact.
For many years I have struggled with accessing reliable and simple information that can be used during consultations with my patients with learning disabilities.
But the development of easyhealth.org.uk has meant there is at last a service that allows my practice team to provide a better service to patients with learning disabilities and other vulnerable patients.
This is a website that holds more than 500 leaflets of accessible health information that GPs and practice staff can use with patients in consultations.
I use them both to explain clinical conditions and also as an information pack that I can print out to be taken away by the patient.
There is also a comprehensive list of useful organisations and a set of videos that can be watched at home. The website is now part of my ‘favourites’ and is used every day.
Too often we are bombarded with information that makes our jobs more difficult and has no benefit for the patient. It is so refreshing to find a website like easyhealth.org.uk which does the exact opposite.
If we are not careful the increasing pressures on GPs could make the already quiet voices of vulnerable patients lost in silence.
Dr Coffey is a GP partner at Brocklebank Health Centre, south London. The easyhealth.org.uk website is produced by the learning disabilities charity Generate.