Mencap, a United Kingdom-based charity advocating for people with learning disabilities, says in the last month it has received multiple reports from COVID patients with learning disabilities who were told they would not be resuscitated if their health deteriorated.
“Throughout the pandemic many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support,” said Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive.
In December, the Care Quality Commission—an independent regulator of health and social care in England—released an interim report warning that “inappropriate use of DNACPR and poor individual clinical decision-making … may have had an impact, including potentially avoidable death, on older people and disabled people.” A full report is expected to be published in the coming weeks, according to The Guardian.
This all comes at a time of debate in the U.K. over who has priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
A study by Public Health England in November found that people with learning disabilities had a death rate from COVID-19 up to six times higher than the general population. It also concluded that the death rate for people aged 18 to 34 with learning disabilities was 30 times higher.
People with Down syndrome have been included in the fourth priority group (out of 10 groups) to receive the coronavirus vaccine, but many others with “less severe” learning disabilities have been told they will need to wait, despite data showing that all people with learning disabilities are at higher risk of developing COVID-related complications.
“It’s unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before COVID died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out,” Harris said.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and the government must act now to help save the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people by urgently prioritizing all people with a learning disability for the vaccine,” she added.
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