Review into premature mortality of people with learning disabilities

A national review will seek to uncover why people with learning disabilities die prematurely, and aim to reduce those figures

A national programme to reduce the number of premature deaths among people with learning disabilities has been launched by the University of Bristol, along with NHS England and the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership.

The three-year project will look at why people with learning disabilities (LDs) typically die much earlier than average and will seek to inform a strategy to reduce their healthcare inequalities. It is the first national review of its kind.

The National Learning Disability Mortality Review Programme, led by the University of Bristol’s Norah Fry Research Centre, will take a retrospective review of the deaths of people with LDs to draw its conclusions on improving health and social care outcomes for this group of people.

The aim of the review is to help health and social care professionals identify and take action on avoidable contributory factors that lead to premature deaths among people with LDs.

In 2013, the concluding report of the Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities (CIPOLD), also conducted by the University of Bristol, found that nearly a quarter of people with LDs were under the age of 50 when they died. On average, women were also found to die at a younger age than men.

One of CIPOLD’s 18 recommendations was for a national mortality review programme for people with LDs to be set up.

The newly-established review will form part of a raft of NHS England programmes designed to improve care and services for people with LDs, including increasing the number receiving annual health checks and cancer screening.

Review programme manager Pauline Heslop, who led the CIPOLD work, said: ‘We are delighted that health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities are being put under the spotlight. We have seen encouraging change being made as a result of local reviews of deaths conducted as part of the confidential inquiry.’

NHS England national clinical director for learning disability Dominic Slowie said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that this huge inequality exists for people with learning disabilities, and this will be a vital piece of work in helping us to support everyone to lead happier, healthier lives.’

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