About half of adults with a learning disability received an annual health check with their GP in the past year, a rise of 8% year-on-year, new figures have revealed.

But there is much room to improve on this, an expert has warned. Figures collected by the Department of Health and published by the Improving Health and Lives Learning Disabilities Observatory found that in the past year 149,480 people were identified by primary care trusts (PCTs) as adults with a learning disability, known to their GP and local authority social services department. Of those, 72,782 of them had a health check. Overall 49% of eligible people had a health check, a rise of 8% from 2009/10. Coverage in 2008/9, the first year of the scheme, was 23%. These health checks are proving to be valuable. In more than 50% of cases, GPs find important, treatable conditions, including deafness due to ear wax, basic dental problems or impaired vision due to needing new glasses.

Professor Eric Emerson, co-director of the National Specialist Learning Disabilities Public Health Observatory, said: “Providing annual health checks for adults with learning disabilities is fundamental to reducing the significant health inequalities faced by this vulnerable group. As such, they are a critically important ‘reasonable adjustment’ that all GP practices should be implementing. “Results from 2010/11 shows that while good progress has been made, there is still much room for improvement. It is very worrying that the coverage rate in the bottom 10% of PCTs is 24% or less (or 1 in 4).”