Making a difference to the health and wellbeing of people with a learning disability in Calderdale


To mark International Day of the Nurse on Friday 12 May 2023, we’re celebrating the incredible work of the nursing profession and the positive impact nurses make to people’s lives, by sharing stories that demonstrate the difference nursing makes.

A drive to increase the uptake of regular health checks for people with a learning disability is making a positive, potentially life-changing difference to the lives of thousands of people in Calderdale.

People with a learning disability often have poorer physical and mental health than other people and may face barriers to accessing health and care to keep them healthy. Annual health checks are an effective way to identify previously unrecognised health needs, including those associated with life-threatening illnesses.

Compared with the wider population, the average age at death for people with a learning disability across England is 23 years younger for men, and 27 years younger for women.[1]

Anyone with a learning disability aged 14 and above can access an annual health check via their GP practice, but in previous years around 70% of eligible people did not respond when invited.

Take up of the health check in Calderdale has been low, with only 30% of eligible people responding to their invite. Following a joint effort by local health services, 81% of people on Calderdale’s Learning Disability register responded to their offer of an annual health check at the end of March 2022. This rose to 87% by the end of March 2023.

This improvement follows partnership working between GP practices, the wider NHS and the voluntary and community sector. A Strategic Health Facilitator from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust worked alongside Calderdale’s GP practices to improve and promote access to healthcare, with a specific goal of improving uptake of annual health checks.

In the community Lead the Way, a service for adults living in Calderdale who have a learning disability and their family carers, supported people who were eligible for the health checks to attend, giving advice on the benefits and reassurance on what to expect from the process.

Angela Burton, strategic health facilitator, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, working with the Calderdale Learning Disability Community Health Team, said: “It’s been important to work alongside people with learning disabilities, their families, and supporters to identify where changes need to be made to improve mental and physical health and wellbeing.

“Together, we decided upon a range of initiatives that were needed to improve not only the number of learning disability annual health checks offered, but also the quality of the appointments to make sure that people with learning disabilities are provided with an effective health action plan as part of the process that gives information and guidance about what that person needs and wants to do to stay healthy.

“I am grateful for the support provided by the Calderdale Self-Advocacy network and from staff working within many partner organisations for their ideas, views and the work they are completing to improve health services for people across the area.”

Lucy Greenwood, advanced nurse practitioner at Stainland Road Medical Centre in Greetland, Halifax, said: “Appointments at GP practices can be daunting for anyone and making the whole experience as relaxed and friendly is key to the service we provide. That’s why our recent visit from Cloverleaf was invaluable, and particularly hearing from an advocate with a learning disability on what makes for a good annual health check. We are learning all the time, so it’s useful to hear how we can continually improve our services.

“The annual health check is a great opportunity to signpost or refer to appropriate agencies that they may not be aware of, and the health action plan that is mutually agreed upon during the session gives the patient an opportunity to have something to work on for their next health check. This can range from independently booking themselves in at the reception desk on their next visit to maintaining a healthy weight through making more positive lifestyle choices.

“From a personal perspective as a nurse, getting to know patients, their families and supporters, and making a positive difference is incredibly fulfilling.  They’re valuable to patients and rewarding in equal measure, and I always have a smile on my face when I am doing health checks.”

Information about annual health checks for people with learning disabilities

It is important that everyone over the age of 14 who is on their doctor’s learning disability register has an annual health check.

An annual health check can help people stay well by talking to a doctor or nurse about their health and finding any problems early, so they can be sorted out.

For more information visit

[1] NICE impact people with a learning disability (November 2021)

Making a difference to the health and wellbeing of people with a learning disability in Calderdale

time to read: 3 min