Health Matters

Date: 3rd October 2023

Breaking news: studies show that people with Down’s syndrome are dying 28 years younger than the general population, despite some advances in recent years.

Only, it’s not breaking news.

We have known for some time that people with Down’s syndrome face hugely significant health inequalities compared to their fellow citizens who have one less chromosome. The shocking news (not breaking news) is that in many cases, the early deaths of people with Down’s syndrome are preventable and avoidable.

This is the real story and one that we need to confront and change, for good.

While it is clear that people with Down’s syndrome have additional and specific health needs, it is also clear that this alone does not explain the disproportionate number of early deaths.  As we see with the wider learning disabled community, prejudice, discrimination and ignorance are the real killers!

In this first week of Down’s syndrome Awareness Month we are focusing on health in a determined effort to confront the inequality and injustice of health outcomes for everyone living with an extra chromosome.

This is where the Scottish Government’s Annual Health Checks for all people with a learning disability (16+), including people with Down’s syndrome, has the potential to be transformative and life-saving.

Local Health Boards have the responsibility to implement the health checks which must be completed annually; must be carried out by a qualified medical or nursing professional; and must use the standardised and agreed health check.

It is vital that the new annual health checks get underway with pace right across Scotland.  They must not falter in arguments about priorities and available resources – this would drive further inequality and injustice.

Our fellow citizens who just happen to have an extra chromosome deserve nothing less.  Their natural and innate kindness and their generosity of spirit deserves, now, to be recognised and reciprocated.

We all know that health really does matter, their health matters too.  It’s time to act.


If you have any questions about the Annual Health Checks please give us a call on 0300 030 2121 and we will do our best to help.

Eddie McConnell

Chief Executive

Down’s Syndrome Scotland