New data released by the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) shows that 60% of deaths of people with a learning disability last week were Covid-19 related.
The loss of life has prompted Mencap and other charities to urgently call for all people with a learning disability to be prioritised for the vaccine to help protect against needless loss of life.
Only older people with a learning disability and those who have Down’s syndrome or a severe or profound learning disability are on the priority list. This currently means that people with mild or moderate learning disability aren’t prioritised at all.
According to a Public Health England report published in November, young adults with a learning disability are 30 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than young adults in the general population.
Half of all deaths in January due to Covid-19
The LeDe Programme is the first national programme aimed at making improvements and helping reduce premature mortality and health inequalities for people with learning disabilities.
Funded by NHS England, the programme was established in response to the recommendations of the Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD).
Every week it publishes the number of deaths where the person notifying the death has indicated that Covid-19 is suspected or confirmed as the cause of death.
In the week ending the 15th January, 45 people with a learning disability died from Covid-19 (as reported to the programme) out of a total number of 75 deaths overall. This brings the total from the beginning of the year to 90 out of a total of 155 deaths overall of people who died with a learning disability.
LeDeR data also states that 65% of people with a learning disability who died from Covid-19 in the first wave had a mild or moderate learning disability.
People with learning disabilities urgently need Covid-19 vaccinations
Mencap says that people with a learning disability have been dying disproportionately throughout the pandemic and they urgently need the protection of a Covid-19 vaccine.
They added that the current guidance leaves individual doctors – already under considerable strain – to make a judgement about the severity of someone’s learning disability before allowing them to receive the vaccination.
GP Learning Disability Registers are not required to identify the severity of a person’s learning disability and many people, even those who should be prioritised under the current rules, could be missed.
A recent report from Mencap also documented the serious health inequalities and stream of failures to protect this group, one of the most marginalised patient populations in the country, during the pandemic. It highlighted the Do Not Resuscitate Notices issued last year to many people with learning disabilities as an example.
Dan Scorer, Head of Policy, said: “Shockingly, not everyone with a learning disability is being prioritised for the vaccine, despite them being over six times more likely to die from coronavirus – and at a younger age.
“While people with a severe or profound learning disability are prioritised in group 6 – and adults with Down’s syndrome in group 4 – others with a mild to moderate learning disability aren’t being prioritised at all.
“This is despite LeDeR data stating that the majority (65%) of people with a learning disability who died from Covid in the first wave had a mild or moderate learning disability.”