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Updating learning disability register would improve Covid prioritisation, study says

Updating learning disability register would improve Covid prioritisation, study says
By Jess Hacker
15 July 2021

Updating the learning disability registers would help to better direct Covid-19 prioritisation policies, a study has said after finding increased risk of Covid-related death among patients on the index.

Published today (15 July) in the BMJ, the study found that people on the learning disability register have ‘markedly increased risks’ of hospital admission and death from Covid-19, particularly those with Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy.

It found the hazard ratio for Covid-19 related death was 8.2 for people with learning disabilities – meaning an 8.2x greater risk of death – and an HR of 5.3 for hospital.

The authors said that although the JCVI updated its guidance to prioritise all patients on the register for Covid vaccination, the record is ‘incomplete’, citing the most recent data which suggests only 23% of people are included.

They said: ‘This change was informed by a previous version of this analysis, which showed increased risk in people on the learning disability who were not already prioritised for vaccination. However, the current learning disability registers are incomplete, and updating them would help to inform prioritisation programmes.’

In addition to vaccination, efforts should be made to continue to protect people with learning difficulties from Covid-19, they added.

This would include improving access to testing for Covid-19, and non-medical interventions such as shielding.

The Government had U-turned in February to invite all patients on, for vaccination after NHS England previously advised GPs to use ‘clinical discretion’ to identify patients with severe learning disability.

Last summer, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) urged the Government to introduce priority testing for people with a learning disability. It made the call after data showed deaths in a care setting had more than doubled in the year.

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