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New mortality indicator published on people with learning disabilities

The indicator2 measures the national and local standardised mortality ratio3 of the learning disabilities population.

Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities: Standardised Mortality Ratio Indicator compares the number of deaths occurring in the learning disabilities population, aged 0-74, to those that would be expected for people of the same characteristics in the general population.

This comparison is made at a national level (England) and is also broken down into different areas of the country4.

It can be used to explore life expectancy and the causes of mortality amongst people with learning disabilities, which could help to improve health outcomes and life expectancy in this group.  

What the data can tell you

The purpose of the indicator is to compare the number of deaths for the learning disabilities population with the number of deaths that would be expected, based on figures for the general population.   Health bodies and commissioning organisations can use this indicator as a prompt to investigate mortality outcomes for specific areas.

What the data cannot tell you

This indicator should not be used to directly compare mortality outcomes between areas and it is inappropriate to rank areas according to their indicator value. Year-on-year comparison of a specific area is not advised due to the method of construction and calculation5.

The difference between the number of observed deaths and the number of expected deaths cannot be interpreted as the number of avoidable deaths.  Whether or not a death could have been prevented can only be investigated by a detailed case-note review and the indicator is not a direct measure of quality of care.

The expected number of deaths is not an actual count of patients, but is a statistical construct which estimates the number of deaths that may be expected in an area on the basis of average England figures and the characteristics of the patients within that area.

Read the full report

Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities: Standardised Mortality Ratio Indicator


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Notes to editors

  1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2018/19 financial year, NHS Digital published 287 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.
  2. This is a three-year rolling mortality indicator presented as a standardised mortality ratio, aimed at measuring the national and local standardised mortality ratio of the learning disabilities population.
  3. The ratio is presented as a rate with 95% confidence intervals.
  4. Geographic breakdown: National (England), Region, Regional Local Office (RLO), Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
  5. The indicator cannot be compared between years to measure change in mortality for people with learning disabilities, as the expected values that contribute to the indicator also change between years. A full explanation is available in the supporting documents for the report.
  6. For media enquiries please contact media@nhsdigital.nhs.net or telephone 0300 30 33 888.