ENABLE Scotland concerned at Scotland’s COVID-19 mortality rates and delay in data
Evidence from Public Health England first published in the Summer of 2020 suggests that people who have a learning disability in England are 6 times more likely to die as a result of COVID-19 than the general population. On 4th February 2021, the Scottish Learning Disability Observatory (SLDO) has published data on the impact of COVID-19 on people who have a learning disability in Scotland. The data summary is based on a population sample from the 2011 Census data aligned with CHI number data from Public Health Scotland, for the first wave of the pandemic in Scotland (January – August 2020).
The SLDO report confirms that:
- People who have a learning disability in Scotland are at greater risk of death – three times more likely to die than the general population from COVID-19
- People who have a learning disability in Scotland are at greater risk of infection – twice as likely as the general population to test positive for COVID-19
- People who have a learning disability in Scotland are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill as a result of COVID-19 – twice as likely to be hospitalised
These findings are presented on top of existing health inequalities which result in higher mortality rates for the LD population generally – SLDO data confirms that people who have a learning disability in Scotland die twenty years earlier than the general population
Responding to the publication of data from the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, ENABLE Scotland’s Director of Campaigns & Membership, Jan Savage said:
“ENABLE Scotland is deeply concerned by the data published this week by the Scottish Government which confirms that people who have a learning disability in Scotland are at least three times more likely to die from COVID-19; are twice as likely to become infected with COVID-19 and are twice as likely to become seriously unwell if they do contract the virus.
These are extremely distressing statistics, but are unfortunately not surprising.
Throughout this pandemic, we have known that the early death rate for people who have a learning disability in Scotland from preventable causes is already twice as high as for the rest of the population, and it is clear that COVID-19 has made existing health inequalities worse – it is not the cause.
We have been calling for this data to be published since the summer of 2020, when the data from Public Health England emerged which confirmed that people who have a learning disability in England are up to 6 times more likely to die than the general population as a result of COVID-19. Whilst we are glad that this information is now published, we are frustrated at the length of time it has taken to produce a high level summary of the impact of COVID-19 on people who have a learning disability, and at the population size sampled – representing less than 1% of the estimated total population of people who have a learning disability in Scotland.
We remain concerned about the apparent invisibility of people who have a learning disability in public health data, and we are calling on the Scottish Government to address this as an urgent priority in its new learning disability strategy for Scotland.
In the current context however, this delay has meant that the pandemic has continued into this winter without the opportunity to apply learning to the vaccination programme and public health advice for this population.
We hope that the JCVI will consider the new data as part of their ongoing consideration of vulnerability. Beyond this, we believe that it must inform the public health approach to reducing health inequalities for people who have a learning disability in Scotland.”
The SLDO Data is published here: COVID -19 | Research projects | Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (sldo.ac.uk)
An Easy Read version of the data summary is published here: sldo-easy-read-summary.pdf
The Public Health England Data is published here: COVID-19: deaths of people with learning disabilities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The SCLD position statement is published here: SCLD-Data-press-statement_Feb21.pdf
If you are distressed by these findings, we are here for you:
- People who have a learning disability – please call the ACE Connect helpline on 0300 303 1928 and we will talk to you about how you are feeling
- Family Carers – please call the Family Connect helpline on 0300 303 0228 for more information and advice
 Source – Public Health England COVID-19: deaths of people with learning disabilities – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)