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News

The majority of people with learning disabilities continue to die before reaching 65, and are more likely to die from treatable, avoidable illnesses, according to the latest data.

Just 15% of the general population dies before the age of 65. For people with learning disabilities, however, this figure is a staggering 63%.

The latest annual report from the University of Bristol’s Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) was published this summer, reviewing the causes of over 2,000 deaths that occurred in 2019.

Sadly, the bleak picture painted by the report is almost identical to the two previous years.

People with learning disabilities continue to die prematurely, with the three most commonly reported causes of death being pneumonia, epilepsy and sepsis. These are largely preventable illnesses. Of all the cases analysed in the LeDeR report, 41% of adults and 23% died from pneumonia, which tends to be easily treated if detected early.

In total, more than a third of all deaths of people with learning disabilities were from treatable medical causes, compared to less than one in twelve in the general population.

Ultimately, people with learning disabilities are being failed by an uncoordinated system that does not take their specific health concerns seriously enough. This is particularly important in the case of people who also have epilepsy, or are from BAME groups.

Each death is a tragedy. The lack of improvement in outcomes for people with learning disabilities is a striking reminder of the vast strides forward that still need to be made to protect our most vulnerable.