An updated report from Improvement Cymru, part of Public Health Wales, suggests that people in Wales with learning disabilities are more likely to die from Coronavirus than the rest of the population.

The report ‘COVID-19-related deaths in Wales amongst People with Learning Disabilities’ analysed existing data from 1 March to 19 November 2020. The study updates a previous report issued by Improvement Cymru in September 2020, which covered the period from 1 March to 26 May 2020.

The main findings of the report are:

  • As people with learning disabilities are often subject to more health inequalities than the wider population they may be particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus. 
  • Comparison with coronavirus deaths amongst all Welsh residents suggests that this figure is three to six times higher in people with learning disabilities, than the population as a whole.
  • This increase in Coronavirus deaths mirrors the persistently higher mortality from other non-Coronavirus causes, experienced by people with a learning disability.    
  • Of approximately 15,600 people in Wales identified with a learning disability, at least 52 of these people died from Coronavirus between 1 March and 19 November 2020.
  • Those identified are likely to be people with relatively severe learning disabilities and those with relatively poor physical health statuses.

The study identified around 15,600 individuals with a learning disability by looking at the diagnoses that they have received during hospital stays over their lifetime to date.

The findings suggest that the rate of deaths involving COVID-19 is higher amongst people with learning disabilities. Among under-60s, the crude mortality rate involving Coronavirus is far higher amongst people with a learning disability.

The report states that using hospital admissions is unlikely to pick out all people with learning disabilities in Wales. At the same time, people picked out by this approach may not be known to specialist learning disabilities services.

The report also warns that using this approach is liable to be biased towards picking out people with relatively severe and readily identifiable learning disabilities or conditions associated with learning disabilities. While this approach will be biased towards people who have relatively poor health, independent of their learning disability.

Dr Rachel Ann Jones, Learning Disabilities programme Lead at Improvement Cymru, said: “This report is an essential piece of on-going work to highlight the health inequalities we so often find with people with learning disabilities.

“This report is vitally important in maintaining the focus on improving the lives of people with a learning disability both now and in the future.”

Zoe Richards, Chief Executive of Learning Disability Wales, said: ““Our thoughts are with the families of people with a learning disability who have died after contracting Covid-19. This report shows just how important it is to protect people with a learning disability from Coronavirus. I’m pleased that the Welsh Government have updated their guidance to vaccinate more people who are at risk in priority group 6.”

New guidance prioritises more people with a learning disability for their vaccine

New guidance from Welsh Government will result in more people with a learning disability being included in priority group 6.

Read our article explaining who will be included, how people will be identified, where people will go for the vaccine, what happens next, advice and support (including easy read) and organisations that have worked together to assist a more inclusive approach.