Vaccinating people with a learning disability

Location: Liverpool

Target Group: People with a learning disability

Initiative type: Outreach

Who we spoke to: Sinead Heneghan, GP and Central Liverpool Primary Care Network Lead for Learning Disabilities

Why is this important to us?

“When we learned that people with learning disabilities were six times more likely to die from COVID-19, we quickly made the decision within our network to prioritise everybody with a learning disability for the vaccine. We also realised that due to the pandemic, many individuals had missed their Annual Health Check (AHC), potentially putting them at even greater risk of mortality and morbidity from the virus. Given that getting the COVID-19 vaccine requires people to attend a clinic, we saw an ideal opportunity to combine the vaccine and the AHC to ultimately reduce the health inequalities that people with a learning disability face.”

What are we doing?

“Recognising that our busy, noisy and fast-paced vaccination hubs were not an ideal environment for some people with learning disabilities, we decided to hold combined AHC and vaccine clinics at one of our GP practices. We invited people with learning disabilities and their carers to attend extended appointments – 10 minutes for a vaccine only or 40 minutes for the vaccine and health check – which were staggered to avoid waiting times and to ensure the waiting room remained quiet and calm.”

Who is involved?

“A huge team of people from Central Liverpool Primary Care Network came together to make this happen, including our Clinical Director, Integrated Care Team Leads and GPs, patient care administrators and pharmacists. A healthcare facilitator from the Community Learning Disability Team also provided invaluable support with both organisation and delivery of the clinic. Crucially, the clinic could not have happened without medical students from Liverpool University, who delivered the annual health checks and vaccinations and did a wonderful job.”

What works for us?

“At our first full-day clinic on the 7 of February 2021, we vaccinated 78 people with learning disabilities (31% of the PCN’s learning disability registered patients) and 19 carers, as well as completing 30 annual health checks. These were people who, without the clinic, would not have been vaccinated at this point in the rollout, and probably would not have come in for their annual health check. We were able to identify lots of unmet health needs and ensure these were followed up with people’s usual GPs. The feedback from patients and carers was very positive, with the environment, staff, and combination of the vaccine with the annual health check receiving high praise. We have learned the importance of providing extra time for both preparation and delivery of the clinics for people with learning disabilities and will be taking this forward into the future clinics we have planned.”

For more examples and key learnings on this theme visit the Strategy Unit website.