Unexpected deaths among people with learning disabilities and autism rise sharply

iStock - Gary Radler

Figures show there was a 175% increase in unexpected deaths among people with learning disabilities or autism over the period of a month.

Care Quality Commission data showed between 10 April and 8 May in places where people with learning disabilities or autism live there were 3,765 deaths compared to 1,370 in the same period last year.

However, the regulator pointed out the number of deaths of autistic people or people with a learning disability could be as much as 40 times smaller once the data on deaths of people who receive other types of care from these providers is separated out.

It is working with the Office for National Statistics to publish a breakdown of all deaths in adult social care by age range, to provide an accurate picture of those of working age who have died in care settings.

In response to the figures, Dr Rhidian Hughes, Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) chief executive, said: ‘People with learning disabilities and/or autism already face significant health inequalities. We are two months into the pandemic response and that it has taken this long for CQC data to come to light showing the potential impact of Covid-19 on people with a learning disability is appalling. This highlights structural inequities at work.

‘VODG has been calling on the government and its agencies to release data on the deaths of people with a learning disability and autism. Today’s figures from CQC are a step forward but we are still miles away from having data that clearly sets out the true picture of how this pandemic is impacting upon disabled people.’

He called on the government to ‘shift its response significantly’ to be more inclusive of all groups using social care services, including people with a learning disability.