Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

GP 'learning difficulties bonus'

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People with learning disabilities suffer from poor access to the NHS

GPs are getting 100 bonuses for carrying out yearly health checks on people with learning difficulties.

Ministers have offered doctors the cash per consultation after an inquiry found this group of patients were suffering because of poor access to the NHS.

The check-ups can last up to 45 minutes and have been designed to make sure the health needs of people with learning difficulties are met.

Campaigners said the move should make a big difference.

A similar scheme is already operating in Wales and has helped to identify a host of unidentified health problems such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.

It is only right it is paid in this way as the check-ups are over and above the normal work
British Medical Association spokeswoman

But questions have been raised about whether it was necessary to pay GPs extra.

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said: "One school of thought is that GPs should have been doing this as part of their standard contract.

"What is clear though is that these check-ups make a difference. There is obviously a communication issue here and that means GPs have to be a bit more proactive in finding out about the health needs of people with learning difficulties

"We are pleased it is now happening."

'Improve services'

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: "It is only right it is paid in this way as the check-ups are over and above the normal work."

And a Department of Health spokesman said the checks would help improve services for people with learning difficulties.

The independent inquiry into health services, which was published earlier this year, found existing guidelines and laws - such as the Disability Discrimination Act - were not being followed.

Chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a former chief executive of London's Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, it recommended health checks were introduced as a way of tackling the problems.



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