This results in people with learning disabilities dying an average 16 years earlier than they should due to poor diagnosis and treatment.
An inquiry by the Department of Health has shown up the inequalities and they recommend a new review body is needed to investigate and monitor the deaths of people with learning disabilities.
They found that 22% of people with learning disabilities die before the age of 50, compared with just 9% of the rest of the population.
The inquiry carried out by Bristol University, looked at the events leading up to death of all known adults and children with learning disabilities in five primary care trusts of the south-west over a two-year period – 233 adults and 14 children, and compared this to a control group of adults with similar backgrounds and health, but who did not have learning disabilities.
People with learning disabilities, however, were more likely to die early because there were delays or problems with investigating, diagnosing and treating their illnesses, while other adults were most likely to die prematurely because of lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and a poor diet.
The review concluded that the premature deaths could be avoided with better health and social care, as those with learning disabilities were also more likely to have problems in having their needs identified and getting the appropriate care, and families or carers struggled to get their views heard and listened to
Dr Pauline Heslop, the study’s lead author at the University of Bristol Norah Fry Research Centre, said:
The cause of their premature death is not, like many in the general population, due to lifestyle-related illnesses.
The cause of their premature deaths appears to be because the NHS is not being provided equitably to everyone based on need. People with learning disabilities are struggling to have their illnesses investigated, diagnosed and treated to the same extent as other people.
These are shocking findings and must serve as a wakeup call to all of us that action is urgently required.