Disabled people 'make up six in 10 Covid deaths in England'

Disabled people made up six in 10 of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England, official data reveals as No10 is urged to prioritise protecting them

  • ONS data suggests disabled people disproportionately affected by pandemic 
  • 30,296 of all the 50,888 Covid deaths in England last year were disabled people 
  • Head of disability charity Sense has urged No10 to learn from its ‘mistakes’

Six out of 10 people who died of Covid-19 last year in England were disabled, official statistics revealed today. 

Number 10 has been urged to prioritise the protection of disabled people as the coronavirus pandemic rumbles on after figures showed their risk of death is three times greater than average.

Some 30,296 of all the 50,888 people who died with Covid in England from January 24 to November 20 last year were disabled in some way, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released today show. 

This meant they accounted for 60 per cent of the deaths but they made up only 17.2 per cent of the study population, showing that they have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The definition of disability used by the ONS included learning disabilities and any physical disability reported by the person themselves, not necessarily diagnosed. 

The Government has been told to ‘learn from the mistakes of the past year’ which have led to disabled people being forgotten, according to a national charity boss.

The risk of death involving coronavirus was 3.5 times greater for more-disabled women – defined as having their day-to-day activities ‘limited a lot’ by their health – compared with non-disabled women.

It was two times greater for less-disabled women, who were defined as having their day-to-day activities ‘limited a little’.

Among men, the risk of death was 3.1 times greater for more-disabled men and 1.9 times greater for less-disabled men, compared with non-disabled men.

Disabled people were more than three times as likely to have died from Covid last year, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show

Head of disability charity Sense Richard Kramer said: ‘Disabled people are three times more likely to die from Covid-19, than non-disabled people. 

‘This is even greater for particular groups, such as those with a learning disability.

‘And yet, throughout this pandemic, disabled people and their needs haven’t been prioritised.

‘From the lack of infrastructure to allow those forced to shield to access food and medicine during the first lockdown, to the cuts in social care support affecting those living independently and families caring for them at home, they have largely been forgotten, left without sufficient support, information and communication.

‘It is not enough that there will be investigation into the disproportionate impact of the virus upon disabled people’s lives, and how society has managed this.

‘The Government must act now, planning its way out of lockdown with disabled people and their family’s needs prioritised, to show that it’s learnt from the mistakes of the past year.’  

Disability status was self-reported as collected in the 2011 Census. 

The Government has been urged to ‘learn from the mistakes of the past year’ which have led to disabled people being forgotten, according to Richard Kramer (pictured), head of national disability charity Sense

The study population consisted of people aged 30 to 100 years in England who were alive on 24 January 2020, who could be linked to the Census and primary care records for current NHS patients. 

Statisticians also used statistical models to adjust for personal and household characteristics, including socio-economic factors and pre-existing health conditions.

This found a smaller but statistically significantly raised risk of death remained unexplained for more-disabled and less-disabled women (1.4 and 1.2 times respectively) and more-disabled men (1.1 times) but not for less-disabled men.

Researchers said this means that no single factor explains the considerably raised risk of death involving Covid-19 among disabled people.

Looking at people with a medically diagnosed learning disability, the risk of death involving Covid-19 was 3.7 times greater for both men and women compared with people who did not have a learning disability

Place of residence, socio-economic and geographical circumstances, and pre-existing health conditions all play a part in the higher risk of death.

The ONS said an important part of the raised risk is because disabled people are disproportionately exposed to a range of generally disadvantageous circumstances compared with non-disabled people.

Looking at people with a medically diagnosed learning disability, the risk of death involving Covid-19 was 3.7 times greater for both men and women compared with people who did not have a learning disability.

After using statistical models to adjust for a range of factors, a raised risk of 1.7 times remained unexplained for both sexes.

The ONS said all the socio-economic and geographical circumstances and pre-existing health conditions considered made some difference to the risk for people with learning disabilities, but the largest effect was associated with living in a care home or other communal establishment.

Patterns in excess Covid-19 mortality risk experienced by disabled people remained largely unchanged between the first and second waves of the pandemic, the figures showed.

The ONS analysis includes deaths involving Covid-19 by self-reported disability status (from the 2011 Census) and by learning disability status (from primary care records) for deaths that occurred between January 24 and November 20 2020, which were registered by the end of 2020.

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