NHS leaders have launched what they are calling the world’s first national review into mortality levels among patients with learning disabilities.
The independent project is intended to help the NHS reduce premature deaths among this group of patients, they said.
“This will be a vital piece of work in helping us to support everyone to lead happier, healthier lives”
The three-year National Learning Disability Mortality Review Programme has been commissioned by NHS England and the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership, and will be carried out by the University of Bristol’s Norah Fry Research Centre.
It will seek to improve the quality of health and social care delivery for people with learning disabilities through a retrospective review of their deaths.
The case reviews will be used to support health and social care professionals to identify, and take action on, the avoidable contributory factors leading to premature deaths in this population.
The national mortality review was recommended by the 2010-13 Confidential Inquiry into Premature Deaths of People with Learning Disabilities.
It found nearly a quarter of people with learning disabilities were younger than 50 years when they died. Up to a third of the deaths of people with learning disabilities were judged to be from causes that could possibly have been addressed by better healthcare provision.
It will form part of a raft of NHS England programmes designed to ensure that people with learning disabilities get the support and services they need, including radical plans to ensure more people are cared for in their communities instead of institutions, and work to drive up the uptake of Annual Health Checks and cancer screening, to spot and address the signs of ill health sooner.
Dominic Slowie, NHS England’s national clinical director for learning disability, said: “It is completely unacceptable that this huge inequality exists for people with learning disabilities, and this will be a vital piece of work in helping us to support everyone to lead happier, healthier lives.”
He added that the work of the earlier confidential enquiry had made a “big difference” to the way in which professionals and organisations thought about issues relating to learning disabilities, and led to important changes in policy and practice at local level, which needed to be replicated nationally.