RCGP urges GPs to prepare for 'vital' expansion of learning disabilities DES

GPs should begin organising how they will provide additional health checks to thousands of young people under an expansion of the learning disabilities DES set to be rolled out within weeks, the RCGP has said.

RCGP: health checks for young adults with learning disabilities are vital
RCGP: health checks for young adults with learning disabilities are vital

From 1 April the existing DES, which pays practices to offer annual health checks to patients aged 18 or over with the most complex needs, will be extended to include 14 to 17-year-olds, following negotiations over the 2014/15 GMS contract.

The RCGP said GPs should start planning for these important changes in order to best help this ‘particularly vulnerable’ section of the population. It said it was ‘vital’ the same service is provided for young adults too.

The decision follows last year’s Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities (CIPOLD), which found that three times as many people with learning disabilities die before the age of 50 compared to the general population.

It is hoped that by providing more effective care, a number of these avoidable deaths can be reduced.

Dr Matthew Houghton, lead investigator of CIPOLD and medical director of RCGP’s Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, 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.’

He added: ‘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. Particularly if parents aren't strong advocates for them, this is a time when healthcare needs can fall between the cracks.

'A truly joined up effort will be needed to ensure that we are successful in helping these young people.’

The learning disabilities DES was introduced as part of the 2008/09 GMS contract. Funding for three QOF points released as part of the 2014/15 negotiations will be invested in the DES from April.

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