Pandemic Recovery: Healthcare Priorities for People with Learning Disabilities – the Annual Health Check by Paula Phillips, Senior Improvement Manager, Learning Disability Improvement Cymru

Over the past year we have witnessed unprecedented demands on health services resulting in people having to get used to different ways to access health care. In many instances, routine work needed postponing and physical access to Primary Care became limited.

The impact of these changes for people with learning disabilities cannot be underestimated. Important routine health surveillance such as the Annual Health Check (AHC) is a key area of concern. This enhanced service is a proactive review of an individual’s health needs.  It gives people with a learning disability the chance to get to know their practice and staff better, so should they become unwell or have concerns, they will find it easier to make contact. 

For a population with higher prevalence of morbidity and mortality who face barriers to accessing care, its value is undeniable.  Prior to the pandemic, uptake in Wales of AHCs was between 30% and 60%.  Interim findings from a major UK study into the experiences of people with learning disabilities during the pandemic show that since before March 2020 nearly half of all people who usually have an AHC had not received one. Worryingly, 30% of family and paid carers report the physical health of the person they cared for had declined.

As we move into recovery it is important AHCs are prioritised in order to improve health outcomes for this population.

To support primary care to deliver AHCs, Improvement Cymru have co-produced a set of resources:

Delivering health care to people with learning disabilities modular education pack

This consists of 14 modules grouped within 4 key themes:

  • Understanding the unique needs of people with a learning disability
  • Addressing health inequalities 
  • The legal and ethical framework 
  • Introduction to the communication needs of people with a learning disability

Each theme is designed to be delivered to everyone involved in the AHC process to ensure a consistent message. Sessions are delivered by the local learning disability staff with the support of people with learning disability encouraged.

The pack can be found here

Accessible resources

This resource pack is for health care staff in Wales who deliver health care to people with a learning disability. The pack includes standardised easy read documents to give out to people with a learning disability and/or their carers including invitation to book an AHC, an AHC appointment letter, an AHC checklist and a health action plan.

The Primary Care Annual Health Check Resource Pack can be found here

Cluster Links

To support delivery of the resources, specialist learning disability services have been asked to identify a link person for each Primary Care Cluster in their area. It would be helpful for the cluster link to attend relevant local cluster meetings providing another area of expertise around the table alongside other community services.

For further information contact your local community learning disability team or, if available in your area, the Learning Disability Primary Care Liaison Service.

Alternatively I am happy to help with any queries, please contact me at