Deaths of people with a learning disability receiving care have more than doubled during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the CQC.
New data shows 386 people with a learning disability and/or died between 10 April and 15 May, up by 134% on 165 deaths in the prior year period. More than 200 of those who died (206) were as a result of suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19.
Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC, said: “Every death in today’s figures represents an individual tragedy for those who have lost a loved one.
“While we know this data has its limitations what it does show is a significant increase in deaths of people with a learning disability as a result of COVID-19. We already know that people with a learning disability are at an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, meaning that access to testing could be key to reducing infection and saving lives.
“These figures also show that the impact on this group of people is being felt at a younger age range than in the wider population – something that should be considered in decisions on testing of people of working age with a learning disability.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said: “This analysis is welcome. However, given that we are more than three months into the pandemic, it has taken the Care Quality Commission too long to get to this point. We need all relevant arms-length bodies to work together so we can fully understand the impact that this is virus is having on disabled people and plan for more effective responses.”
Dr Hughes said the figures were a “sad and stark reminder” of the impact the coronavirus was having on people with a learning disability and/or autism, adding the data was a “wake up call for government to put right its testing programme that is currently neglecting people of working age who use care services”.
Lisa Lenton, Chair of the Care Provider Alliance, added: “The focus during the pandemic has been on care homes for older people over recent weeks and whilst I agree the impact of the coronavirus in care settings for older people has been absolutely devastating – and direct action has been and continues to be required, the figures released today put in to focus that people of working age who have a disability are also very much at risk. The government strategy has been focused on older people in care homes and the government now needs to ensure further strategies are put in place which are inclusive to support people who access the wide range of social care services available, as a matter of urgency.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy and we are working hard to save lives and protect people most in need of support.
“We have significantly increased testing capacity so everyone with symptoms of coronavirus can be tested, and have already carried out more than 4 million tests.
“We are working to improve our understanding of how different groups may be affected by the virus, including those with learning disabilities or autism, to ensure we can provide the best support and protect those most at risk.”