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Largest English study into health and care of people with learning disabilities published today

  *NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional data available at CCG level

09 December 2016: Report published by NHS Digital 1 , in collaboration with Public Health England, highlights differences in the health outcomes of people with learning disabilities 2

The report Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities Experimental Statistics, 2014-15finds that people with learning disabilities have poorer health and shorter life expectancy than those without.

The report includes data from almost half of all GP practices in England3, and identifies differences in the treatment, health status and outcomes of people with learning disabilities compared with the rest of the population.

Overall, 51 per cent of all patients registered in England are represented in the dataset4, making it the biggest study ever conducted into the health of people with learning disabilities in England.

Findings from the data collected from 2014-15 include:

  • females with a learning disability had an 18-year lower life expectancy than the general population, while males with a learning disability had a 14 year lower life expectancy than the general population
  • people with learning disabilities were 26 times more likely to have epilepsy, 8 times more likely to have severe mental illness and 5 times more likely to have dementia. They were also 3 times more likely to suffer with hypothyroidism and almost twice as likely to suffer diabetes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease or stroke
  • 1 in 2 eligible women with a learning disability received breast cancer screening compared to 2 in 3 eligible women without a learning disability

Data in the report were extracted for the Learning Disability Observatory at Public Health England5. The programme was funded by NHS England.

The report found that 0.4 per cent (around 1 person in 230) of the population of England were recorded as having a learning disability.  The highest prevalence was found in males aged 18-24 (1 per cent).

The information released today describes the situation at the end of March 2015. Plans are in place to report similar data for the end of March 2016, and will conclude with data for 2016/17 being published in the summer of 2017.

Co-Director of the Learning Disabilities Observatory Team at Public Health England, Professor Gyles Glover, who helped to produce the report, said: "We hope local health care commissioners and providers will use these data to understand better the key health issues for this vulnerable group and how to tackle them more effectively."

NHS Digital's Responsible Statistician Kathryn Salt said: "We are delighted to have been able to collect and publish these data, as they provide the first information of its kind on the lives of the many thousands of people who have learning disabilities in England. We hope that this report will play a big part in identifying where provisions are working well and where they may need to be improved to better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities."

The full report is available at Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities: 

An easy-read version of the report will be created for those with a learning disability within the coming weeks.


Notes to editors

1. NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for 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. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. The Health and Social Care Information Centre is a non-departmental body created by statute, also known as NHS Digital. We provide 'Information and Technology for better health and care'. Find out more about our role and remit

2. Learning disabilities are heterogeneous conditions, but are defined by three core criteria:

* lower intellectual ability (usually defined as an IQ of less than 70)
* significant impairment of social or adaptive functioning; and
* onset in childhood.

3. There are gaps in this extract as data were not gathered from all GP practices. Data were taken from 3,937 practices of the 7,889 open and active practices in England (49.9 per cent). Not all practices using EMIS, INPS and Microtest have had their data collected and no practices using TPP have had their data collected. Further information on coverage is available in the report.

4. The coverage of this dataset is unlikely to distort the findings of the national analyses, but it is important to consider the coverage when analysing local variations. For example, coverage varies by CCG from 1.3 per cent of registered patients (NHS Leicester City) to 97.6 per cent (NHS West Lancashire CCG).

5. The process is carefully designed so that only anonymised counts of people are requested. No personal clinical data is transferred out of practice information systems at any time.

6. For media enquiries, please contact the press office on 0300 303 3888 or

Last edited: 11 April 2018 5:36 pm