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Nurses urged to check people with learning disabilities registered for COVID-19 vaccine

RCN says not all adult service users on GP learning disability register

RCN has raised concerns that not all adult service users are on the GP learning disability register

Nurses have been urged to check that people with learning disabilities are known to their GP to access the COVID-19 vaccine after the priority list was expanded.

All adults on the GP learning disability register will now be invited for a vaccine following a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government on vaccines.

Up until now only those with severe and profound learning disabilities had been prioritised.

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RCN has raised concerns that not all adult service users are on the GP learning disability register

Picture: iStock

Nurses have been urged to check that people with learning disabilities are known to their GP to access the COVID-19 vaccine after the priority list was expanded.

All adults on the GP learning disability register will now be invited for a vaccine following a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government on vaccines.

Up until now only those with severe and profound learning disabilities had been prioritised.

150,000 people with learning disabilities now prioritised for COVID-19 vaccine

The JCVI estimates that at least 150,000 additional people with a learning disability will now be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But RCN learning disability nursing forum chair Jonathan Beebee said he is concerned not everyone with a learning disability will be known to their GP.

In England, there are approximately 1.2 million people with a learning disability, with only an estimated 250,000 people on the GP learning disability register.

Mr Beebee added: ‘Nursing staff who work with people with learning disabilities and their families should encourage them to start a conversation with the GP now to find out what the best course of action is and whether any records need to be updated.’

RCN learning disability nursing forum chair Jonathan Beebee
Jonathan Beebee
Picture: Chris Balcombe

Currently, anyone with a mild or moderate learning disability who is not on their GP learning disability register will only be contacted for a COVID-19 vaccine according to their age.

Yet Mencap, a UK charity for people with a learning disability, told Nursing Standard that anyone with a learning disability, whether mild or severe, is eligible to be on the register.

This register entitles people to annual health checks, prioritisation for vaccinations, easy-read information and support during appointments.

Think of any barriers to vaccinations for people with learning disabilities

The change to the priority group recommendations follows calls from charities, such as Mencap, to include all people with a learning disability in the priority vaccination list.

According to a Public Health England study, people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020.

Mr Beebee said that nurses should ‘think of any barriers to vaccinations for people with learning disabilities’.

He added: ‘They should think about whether someone with a learning disability can consent to vaccinations, as nursing staff or other healthcare professionals administering the jab may not be able to conduct a full assessment, which could delay the vaccination.’

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