People with learning disabilities are dying of coronavirus at more than six times the rate of the general population, according to “deeply troubling” figures that have prompted a government review.
A report from Public Health England (PHE) found that 451 in every 100,000 people registered as having learning disabilities died after contracting Covid-19 in the first wave of the pandemic, when the figures were adjusted for age and sex.
Because not all Covid deaths among people with learning disabilities are registered as such, the true figure is likely to be 692 in every 100,000, or 6.3 times the UK average, the report estimated.
Campaigners said the figures showed the government had failed to protect the most vulnerable.
The report found that Covid deaths among those with learning disabilities were also more widely spread across age groups, with far greater mortality rates among younger adults.
Those aged 18-34 were 30 times more likely to die with the virus than their counterparts in the general population.
The higher death rate is likely to reflect the greater prevalence of health problems such as diabetes and obesity among those with learning disabilities, the report said. It also noted that some learning disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, can make people more vulnerable to respiratory infections.
People with learning disabilities are also likely to have difficulty recognising symptoms and following advice on testing, social distancing and infection prevention, the report said. It may also be harder for those caring for them to recognise symptoms if these cannot be communicated, it added.