People with learning disabilities are up to 11 times more likely to die from respiratory disease than the rest of the population, a study has found.
The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, based at Glasgow University, examined data from more than 90,000 people with learning disabilities over the past 24 years.
For adults with learning disabilities the risk of death was 6.5 times greater than it was for adults in the general population.
The rate of death from pneumonia was almost 27 times higher.
The report’s lead author said many people were dying prematurely and greater awareness needed to be raised in the medical profession.
Dr Maria Truesdale said: “The research highlighted a number of inequalities in the care of people with learning disabilities.
“People with learning disabilities are dying prematurely from causes that could be prevented.
“There is an urgent need for greater understanding and awareness across health and social care of the specific health and care needs of people with learning disabilities, and in particular of the specific risk factors that contribute to premature deaths.
“We must act to now reduce preventable deaths.”
She continued: “We are calling for a number of actions including raising awareness among primary care staff of the link between dysphagia and recurrent chest infections, action to increase uptake of relevant vaccination programmes in the population with learning disabilities and practice-based approaches to address the common risk factors related to a higher risk of respiratory-associated deaths.”
The report said further research into the underlying causes would be required.
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