AN OXFORD campaign group has said new data revealing learning disability deaths have more than doubled during coronavirus confirms they are ‘seen as a low priority’ and this has led to ‘needless deaths’.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out a targeted analysis after initial findings suggested there had been a large increase in the number of unexpected deaths where people with learning disabilities and autism are cared for.

It found between April 10 and May 15 this year, 386 people with a learning disability died who were receiving care from such services.

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For the same period last year 165 people with a learning disability, some of whom may also be autistic, died – an 134 per cent increase.

Of these 206 were as a result of suspected and/or confirmed Covid-19.

Despite the national increase, Oxfordshire health agencies maintain they have recorded no corresponding rise in the county.

Oxford Mail:

Ben McCay

Ben McCay, chair of trustees at self-advocacy charity My Life My Choice, said: “The national death rates provided by the CQC confirm what we suspected, that people with a learning disability, like older people in care homes, are seen as a low priority by those in power.

"Lack of PPE, lack of testing, the removal of Covid-19 infected people from hospitals to care homes, and the early decisions by the central government to abandon track and trace have almost certainly led to the needless deaths of people with a learning disability."

He added: "Thankfully, in Oxfordshire at least, things seem to be different with no discernible increase in deaths over and above those recorded for the same period in 2019.”

Oxfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board, made up of local health organisations, said last month it had seen no increase in notifications of deaths of people with learning disabilities in the county in the first four months of 2020.

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It confirmed this was still the case when contacted about the new CQC figures.

Kate Terroni, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the CQC said: “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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “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.”