VODG responds to CQC data on deaths of people with a learning disability

The regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has today published new analysis that demonstrates a significant increase in the death of people with a learning disability and/or autism from coronavirus (COVID-19).

The analysis shows that there is a 134% increase in the number of death notifications this year compared with the same period in 2019. Of the 386 people with a learning disability and/or autism who have died this year, 206 were as a result of suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) said:

“These findings are a sad and stark reminder to us all of the impact that coronavirus is having on people with a learning disability and/or autism. The figures are a wakeup call for government to put right its testing programme that is currently neglecting disabled people of working age who use care services.

“The current focus of the testing programme is on older people in care homes with a diagnosis of a dementia. That decision needs to be reviewed urgently so that symptomatic and asymptomatic disabled people can readily access tests.

“VODG represents charities that support disabled people, including people with a learning disability and/or autism. We know our members are dissatisfied with the current testing programme for both staff and those using services, and whether symptomatic or not. Furthermore, the recent implementation of the NHS Trace and Test programme only serves to intensify those concerns.

“People who live in potentially vulnerable circumstances deserve to be at the heart of an equitable and fair testing system. That requires government to actively consider the needs of everyone who uses care services, not just those using some parts of it, such as care homes for older people.

“In order to ensure future public health measures are implemented effectively across society, government must shift its focus and recognise everyone who engages with social care services.”

Commenting on the Care Quality Commission data release, Dr Hughes said:

“This analysis is welcome. However, given that we are more than three months into the pandemic, it has taken CQC too long to get to this point. We need all relevant arms-length bodies to work together so we can fully understand the impact that this is virus is having on disabled people and plan for more effective responses.”