-A A +A
Select color visibility that suits you Basic theme Dark theme Darker theme Text only

Disabled people still being overlooked in roadmap planning

23 February 2021

Ministers and the NHS must improve safeguards for Disabled people as they announce the steps out of lockdown, a coalition of Disabled People’s groups has warned the Health Minister Matt Hancock.

A letter sent to Matt Hancock, also copied in to Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, Disabilities Minister Justin Tomlinson and NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens, backs up an open statement made by the coalition last week. The letter reads reads:

Dear Secretary of State,

Disability Rights and Coronavirus

We applaud the commitment and efforts of Government and NHS in rolling out the vaccination programme. We very much welcomed the decision before Christmas to increase the prioritisation of people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

However, there remain critical issues affecting Disabled people, set out in the attached Open Statement supported by a range of disability organisations, that require urgent Government and NHS action.

There are Disabled People who need increased prioritisation for vaccination. Everyone with a learning disability or who is autistic or has a cognitive impairment should be vaccinated within priority group six. Disabled People may struggle to communicate their health needs and may have health needs that have been overlooked. It is also likely that their patient record contains inadequate information relating to their health conditions. The death rate of people with learning disabilities from coronavirus has been unacceptably high.

Disabled people of working age, who live in residential settings or hospitals should also be prioritised for vaccination under group six. It may be that some areas prioritised this group when vaccinating people in Care Homes but we don’t believe that this was common practice.

Finally, on vaccinations there is a lot of concern and confusion amongst Disabled people, as to whether we should be vaccinated within group six. We would ask that it is made clear that where people feel their conditions merit being in group 6, they are encouraged to contact their doctor.

There are two other issues highlighted in the Open Statement, which need to be urgently addressed. We ask that the letter being sent out to new and existing Shielders is provided in accessible formats. The NHS Accessible Information Standard requires health records to include information on communication needs and it is not acceptable that people with specific needs are sent a standard communication that they can’t independently access. We also ask that pointers to advice and support in the letters include a mixture of digital and non-digital sources. It should not be assumed that everyone is online. A disproportionately high number of Disabled people do not have digital access. We are also concerned about the employment problems that new Shielders might face and the challenges they might have in accessing supermarket deliveries.

The final issue touched on by the Open Statement is that of DNAR Notices. There are still reports that such Notices wrongly remain on the patient records of some Disabled people. We would ask that the NHS takes urgent action to remove them.

We are happy to meet with Government and NHS representatives to support action on the above issues. We would welcome a speedy response to our concerns. [Letter ends.]

Our calls have been echoed in evidence submitted by the British Medical Association to the government’s Public Accounts Committee in which it said: “The Government must now engage proactively and thoroughly with clinically vulnerable people and groups representing people shielding, to learn the lessons from their experiences and respond to their concerns. It is particularly important that the needs of clinically vulnerable people are considered when working through strategies for exiting lockdown. Many people in these groups have been shielding and isolated for months, with all the associated economic and health issues that entails. It is important that lockdown exit strategies are not predicated on curtailing personal liberty for people in this group.”