Editorial

COVID-19: will people with learning disabilities fare better in the second wave?

Report reveals service users six times more likely to die than others during the first wave

Report reveals service users were six times more likely to die than others during the first wave

The news that people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die during the first wave of COVID-19 is shocking.

Nurses and charities had been asking for the data to be made public and now it has it is clear that peoples fears that this group would be at real risk is borne out in official figures.

The data from

Report reveals service users were six times more likely to die than others during the first wave

Man with a learning disability wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic
Picture: iStock

The news that people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die during the first wave of COVID-19 is shocking.

Nurses and charities had been asking for the data to be made public and now it has it is clear that people’s fears that this group would be at real risk is borne out in official figures.

The data from Public Health England in its report COVID-19: deaths of people with learning disabilities shows the death rate for those in the 18-34 age group was 30 times higher than the general population.

Older service users in residential care are among those most at risk

Being prone to obesity and diabetes, and older people with learning disabilities living in residential care, were those most at risk.

‘The evidence was there and yet, as the country struggled to get to grips with this pandemic, people with learning disabilities were falling through the net’

The physical vulnerabilities of people with learning disabilities and the fact that they die earlier than the general population has been made plain in successive reports from the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review.

So, the evidence was there and yet, as the country struggled to get to grips with this pandemic, people with learning disabilities were falling through the net.

Mencap’s head of policy Dan Scorer has accused the government of under investment in social care and failing to support people with learning disabilities to understand the ‘ever-changing guidance on staying safe and accessing testing’.

Will the situation improve for people with learning disabilities and will learning disability nurses be supported to prevent a similar situation in the second wave?

Regular testing of care home and assisted living residents and staff during second wave

The UK government has acknowledged this tragedy and says the report’s findings will be reported to its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. It says with regular testing of staff and residents in care homes and testing rolled out to supported living settings, things might be better this time.

Providing adequate personal protective equipment and advice that those living in and working in care homes should be top of the list for the new vaccine should also be steps in the right direction.

View our COVID-19 resource centre

Find out more


Christine Walker is editor of Learning Disability Practice

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