Mencap ‘deeply troubled’ over coronavirus deaths of people with learning difficulties

A higher proportion of deaths of people with learning disabilities involved coronavirus than the proportion of care home residents dying with it, over eight weeks, new data suggests.

Some 467 people with a learning disability died with suspected or confirmed coronavirus between March 16 and May 10, according to new data published by NHS England.

This is 45.4% of the 1,029 deaths of people with a learning disability over the eight-week period notified to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) at the University of Bristol.

The learning disability charity Mencap said the total was double the number of deaths usual for April and May, when they would expect to see about 480.

But notification to LeDeR is not mandatory, so it is unlikely that all deaths of patients with a learning disability during the period will have been counted.

In comparison, over the period March 16 to May 1, about 31.1% of care home residents who died had suspected or confirmed coronavirus.

ONS data released on Friday shows there were 38,534 deaths of care home residents, of which 11,975 involved Covid-19.

Mencap said people with a learning disability are “being forgotten in this crisis” and it is “deeply troubled” by the data, suggesting they are dying at double the rate than in previous years.

Chief executive Edel Harris (pictured) said: “The devastating impact of Covid-19 on our community is shocking, but sadly not surprising, when we have long been warning that the healthcare rights of people with a learning disability are under threat like never before.

“ Over the last few months we have repeatedly challenged discriminatory healthcare guidance and practice and continue to support people with a learning disability and their families to access the treatment and support they have a right to.

“That’s why it is more important now than ever that the Government and NHS urgently complete a timely, full and accurate assessment of Covid-19-related deaths of people with a learning disability across all settings, so that steps can be taken to address any potentially discriminatory practice now.

“This is a matter of life or death and the lives of people with a learning disability matter equally.”

Last week, figures published by NHS England showed at least one in 50 patients who died in hospitals in England after contracting coronavirus had a learning disability or autism.

Official data found that since March 24, of those patients who died in hospital and had tested positive for Covid-19, at least 451 (2%) had a learning disability or autism.

Separately, some 1,020 people (4%) who died had received treatment for a mental health condition.

The data on the deaths of people with pre-existing conditions was published for the first time on Thursday, including information on learning disabilities, autism and mental health illness.

It includes all deaths reported to NHS England from acute, mental health, learning disability and autism services, provided by NHS providers or providers of NHS-funded services.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Cornerstone.