A report from the UK Government has suggested that people with learning disabilities in England have died from coronavirus at a rate over six times higher than the general population.
This comes from a report titled ‘Deaths of people identified as having learning disabilities with COVID-19 in England in the Spring of 2020’.
It examined data from The English Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) and NHS England’s COVID-19 Patient Notification System (CPNS), which records deaths in hospital settings.
It reported that 451 per 100,000 people registered as having a learning disability died with COVID-19 between 21 March and 5 June.
This makes for a death rate over four times higher than the general English population.
Due to errors in the data, however, the report estimated that the true figure may be as high as 692 per 100,000, 6.3 times higher.
Deaths were also more likely across all ages for people with learning disabilities, as compared to the rest of the population.
The report said that higher rates of obesity and diabetes among people with learning disabilities are some of the likely causes of this disparity.
It also noted that certain learning disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, come with an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “It is deeply troubling that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society suffered so much during the first wave of the pandemic. We must do everything possible to prevent this happening again.
“There are now regular tests in care homes to make sure cases of coronavirus can be quickly identified and isolated, even if people do not recognise the symptoms themselves.
“But with cases developing across the country, it is essential to practice rigorous infection control if you are in contact with someone with a learning disability, whether or not they live in a care home.
“Wash your hands, wear a mask and keep a safe distance. The fewer people you meet, the more you’ll stop the spread.”
Since the news emerged, Kathryn Smith, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, has commented, saying: “It is devastating to read about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with learning disabilities.
“The pandemic has continued to highlight the long-standing inequalities in society and particularly for those people accessing social care.
“This has been shown across care services, from direct exposure to the virus through to the unintended consequences of loneliness, isolation and mental health problems; as well as with the previous issues with accessing appropriate PPE and testing.
“We must continue to highlight the additional support that people with learning disabilities need during this time, including getting access to information in an accessible format and a recognition of the additional risks they can often experience through living with other long-term conditions.
Our Beyond COVID-19 report highlights many issues that different people are facing.
“We must see the sustainable investment that we need to support people now and into the future and this must include a focus on preventative services and better workforce pay and conditions.”