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Half of all deaths of people with a learning disability ‘avoidable’


By Jess Hacker
18 July 2022

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Nearly half (49%) of all deaths of people with a learning disability in 2021 were deemed to be avoidable, a major annual report has found.

By comparison, just 22% of deaths were classified as avoidable among the overall general population in 2020.

A new report, led by King’s College London and produced for NHS England – identified that of those avoidable deaths among people with learning disabilities, 65.5% died in hospital.

The learning from life and death reviews programme (LeDeR) report also revealed that the Midlands and North West showed the greatest difference in avoidable to unavoidable deaths at 53%, compared to 48% in London.

And when looking at individual long-term conditions, 8% of avoidable deaths were related to cancer, 17% to diabetes, 14% to hypertension, and 17% to respiratory conditions.

It also found that:

  • More than 50% of people with a learning disability died in areas rated as some of the most deprived in England
  • Around six out of 10 people with a learning disability die before age 65, compared to one in 10 from the general public
  • On average, men with a learning disability die 22 years younger than men from the general population.

On the findings, Tom Cahill, NHS national director for learning disability and autism, said: ‘Each of the new 42 Integrated Care Boards launched this month will have a dedicated learning disability and autism executive lead, as well as a Down’s syndrome lead, championing and helping to accelerate change, and reduce the very real health inequalities faced by people with a learning disability and autistic people.’

He added that the report recognises the need to continue to work with partners across social care and local authorities ‘to deliver lasting health improvements and reduce health inequalities’.

This year’s review was the first to include people with autism since it launched nationally in 2017.

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