Laura Sharman 13 November 2020

People with learning disabilities six times more likely to die from COVID-19

People with a learning disability were up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19 in the first wave of the pandemic than the general population, a report has found.

The Public Health England study also found the death rate for younger adults with learning disabilities was 30 times higher than those without disabilities.

A third of those with learning disabilities who died from coronavirus between 21 March and 5 June were living in residential care.

Professor 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.’

The report said people with learning disabilities are more likely to have other physical health problems that can increase their risk of dying from COVID-19. It also said people with learning disabilities are likely to have difficulty recognising symptoms of COVID-19, or following government advice around infection prevention and control.

Kathryn Smith, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: '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.'

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