Health screening for people with learning disabilities by a community learning disability nursing service in Northern Ireland.
Over the last 30 years there has been a considerable increase in the life expectancy of people with learning disabilities. This has resulted in changing patterns of morbidity and mortality and an increasing recognition of the health needs of people with learning disabilities. Major strides forward have been made in the reduction of preventable illnesses among the general population. However, among people with learning disabilities such illnesses have received only limited health promotion attention until recently. In the last decade major gaps have been identified in the ability of current primary health services to respond to the needs of people with learning disabilities. The need to respond effectively to this situation has been identified as a priority by the current United Kingdom Government. Following an overview of the literature in relation to the changing health profile of people with learning disabilities and the need for health screening, consideration is given to some of the key difficulties which may be encountered when attempting to utilize current primary health services. The analysis of data derived from the health screening of 373 people with learning disabilities by a community nursing service in Down and Lisburn Health and Social Services Trust reveals the need for further action in relation to cardiovascular status, sensory deficits, mobility and aspects of sexual health.