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134% increase in deaths of people with learning disabilities during pandemic

03 June 2020

134% more disabled people with learning disabilities have died during the Coronavirus crisis than is statistically normal, according to data published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Between 10 April and 15 May there were 386 deaths, with only half of them attributed to Coronavirus. In the same period in 2019, there were 165 deaths.

In a statement, the government said it was looking at how to "protect those most at risk".

The CQC analysis looked at deaths of people with a learning disability and/or autism where it was told by care providers, and also where a learning disability was recorded on the death notification form.

In the general population, Coronavirus-related deaths stand at 34% according to Office for National Statistics data.

Tests for the virus are not currently prioritised for care homes that specialise in caring for people with learning disabilities or autism.

DR UK CEO Kamran Mallick said: “It is horrifying that there is such a discrepancy in the relative number of deaths of people with learning disabilities and autism compared to the rest of the population. We said at the beginning of the pandemic that disabled people must not be allowed to become cannon fodder. It would appear that for those who have needed the most support, this has come to pass.

“People with learning disabilities have a life expectancy of 20 years less than those without outside of pandemic times. This virus is shining a spotlight on those life expectancy inequalities, and exacerbating them to frightening levels.”

The CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Kate Terroni said: "We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives."

The Department of Health said: "We are working to improve our understanding of how different groups may be affected by the virus, including those with learning disabilities or autism, to ensure we can provide the best support and protect those most at risk."