People with learning disabilities continue to die prematurely, new report shows

People with learning disabilities in England continue to die prematurely and from treatable causes of death, the latest annual report from the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) programme shows.

Treatable causes of death accounted for 403 per 100,000 deaths in people with learning disabilities, compared to just 83 per 100,000 deaths in the general population, according to the University of Bristol’s 2019 LeDeR Annual Report.

The report, published today [7 July], indicates that the majority of people with learning disabilities continue to die before reaching the age of 65. In the general population, 85 per cent of deaths happen at or after the age of 65, but in sharp contrast this is the case for just 37 per cent of people with learning disabilities.

Of the deaths notified to the LeDeR programme in 2019, two-fifths of adults and almost a quarter of children died from pneumonia, an illness which is normally treatable in this country. These figures are very similar to the figures for deaths caused by pneumonia published in the University’s two previous annual reports.

Professor Pauline Heslop , the LeDeR programme lead at the University of Bristol, said: "Pneumonia and aspiration pneumonia remain the most frequently reported causes of death, with little change over the past year. This is concerning as they are causes of death which could be preventable, as well as treatable. Addressing these causes of deaths remains an urgent priority.

"The disparity between people with learning disabilities and the general population in relation to average age at death, causes of death, and avoidable causes of death remains substantial and urgent action is needed."

This report presents findings from 3,195 reviews of deaths of people with learning disabilities notified to the LeDeR programme up to 31st December 2019, with a focus on information about the 2,126 deaths reviewed between 1 January and 31 December 2019.

A full copy of the 2019 LeDeR Annual Report is available to read here.