ONS suggests NHS disability discrimination might have elevated danger of COVID deaths – Incapacity Information Service
Official figures have provided the first statistical evidence to suggest that unfair practices or discrimination within the NHS may have put disabled people at greater risk of dying from COVID-19 during the pandemic.
The Bureau of National Statistics (ONS) has informed the Disability News Service that the evidence it has submitted “warrants further investigation.”
Despite that comment, three key regulators – the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – have refused to say whether they are investigating the ONS concerns become.
According to the ONS, the numbers show that – taking into account other factors such as people’s underlying health conditions or whether they live in a nursing home or in a less affluent part of the country – there is still a “lower, but statistically significantly increased risk of death” of COVID-19 for disabled people with higher support needs.
But it also means that it “cannot rule out the remaining explanatory factors for the increased risk of death for disabled people”, such as “access to and routes through the health system”.
It also says that an “important part” of the increased risk of death of COVID-19 that disabled people experience is that they are “disproportionately exposed to a number of general adverse conditions compared to non-disabled people”.
During the pandemic, disabled people have raised concerns about discriminatory treatment within the health system that they say put their lives at risk.
This included discriminatory guidelines from health authorities on who should be given intensive care priority during the pandemic; an NHS trust that told people with muscular dystrophy to keep their ventilator filters for COVID patients; General practitioners writing to disabled patients asking them to consent to “Do not attempt to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation”; failure to provide screening information in an accessible format; and discriminatory NHS England guidance to hospital visitors.
Human rights experts with disabilities said the new ONS numbers were “deeply worrying” and called for urgent action to assess whether discrimination – whether direct or indirect – in the health system has contributed to the increased risk of death.
Dr. Marie Tidball (pictured, center), Coordinator of the Disability Law and Policy Project at Oxford University, said: “There is much more urgent work to be done to assess what factors caused this risk and whether disabled people have access to health care and public information Health played a role in the increased unexplained risk for these groups.
“The government can no longer shirk its responsibility to put in place a comprehensive response and recovery plan to identify all barriers to access to adequate health care and must take a range of measures to reduce the death toll among people with disabilities to stop.”
Mike Smith (pictured right), former Disability Officer for the Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission and now Managing Director of Real, East London, said: “You can make any statements you like, but this shows disabled people are more likely to die for reasons they don’t related to health conditions.
“The mismatched numbers are so bad in part because disabled people are more likely to live in circumstances like poverty or poor housing, which make them more vulnerable.
“Even after your adjustments, you are 40 percent more likely to die as a disabled woman. That’s just not acceptable. “
He stressed that the numbers do not show that the additional risk was caused by direct or indirect discrimination in the health system, but said that this possibility needs urgent investigation and he is not sure why no one seemed interested.
He said, “As someone who belongs to the group of“ moderately at risk ”people, I took extra care not to get COVID when the cases got higher because I didn’t trust a health system that was under pressure, not negative my quality of life to judge when I was unable to express myself and stand up for myself. “
He added: “This is not only about potential discrimination in access to health, but also about safeguarding our fundamental right to life under Human Rights Law and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“There should be national outrage about it.”
Professor Peter Beresford (pictured left), co-chair of the network for disabled people and service users Shaping Our Lives, said it was “increasingly addressing the official evidence that disabled people were severely hit and died disproportionately – but for reasons other than just that their state of health or objective health risk.
“It is difficult to rule out the likelihood of the discrimination that makes them suffer so much because of COVID-19 and government policies that result from it.
“The fact that the ONS, after careful investigation, concludes that disabled people are at a ‘statistically significant’ increased risk of death is deeply worrying.
“The numbers for people with learning disabilities are particularly worrying.”
The ONS numbers are included in a new report released last week that re-confirms that about three-fifths (59 percent) of COVID-19 deaths * during the pandemic were caused by disabled people.
Most of the mainstream media focused on this number, which has not changed since the ONS first report on the deaths of disabled people during the pandemic last June.
However, the new figures also show a “lower but statistically significantly increased risk of death” for disabled people with higher support needs after ONS had taken into account pre-existing health conditions and other factors such as the type of accommodation the person lived in, their poverty and that part of the country in which they lived.
It’s the first time ONS has attempted to tailor its COVID-related deaths of people with disabilities to the impact of underlying health conditions and to adjust them separately for factors such as where the person lives.
The numbers show that women with more disabilities ** are 40 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 and men with disabilities are 10 percent more likely to die from COVID-19, when all of these other factors are considered. compared to non-disabled women and men.
However, it is also the first time that ONS has released numbers that demonstrate the increased risk of death from COVID-19 for people with learning disabilities.
In people with “medically diagnosed learning disabilities,” men and women were 70 percent more likely to die of COVID-19 than people without such impairment, after considering all different factors, including underlying health conditions.
ONS also found that of all the factors that have increased the risk of death for people with learning disabilities, living in a nursing home or other community setting was the most important.
An EHRC spokesperson refused to say whether the ONS comments on the health system are cause for concern and whether he believes an investigation is needed.
However, it reiterated its previous calls for a review of the disproportionate deaths of people with disabilities.
The spokesman said: “These numbers are further evidence of the serious impact of the coronavirus on disabled people.
“To mitigate the risk as we continue to find our way out of the pandemic, it is imperative that the government conduct a disproportionate death review to ensure that their views and experiences are taken into account.”
CQC also refused to say whether the ONS comments on the health system were cause for concern and whether it felt an investigation was needed.
A third regulator, NICE, also refused to say whether the ONS comments on the healthcare system are cause for concern and whether they would take action.
It has been argued that the problem is “outside of NICE’s jurisdiction”, although the regulator says on its website, “NICE’s role is to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and other public health and social services to take.”
The Department of Health and Social Welfare refused to say yesterday whether it was concerned about the ONS proposal that unfair treatment in the health system could have contributed to increased mortality rates among disabled people and whether it would take action to address those concerns examine.
However, a DHSC spokesperson said, “It is clear that COVID-19 disproportionately affects certain groups of people, including people with certain health conditions and disabled people, and we will take all necessary steps to ensure that we protect them best and can support. ”
* The report looks at COVID-related deaths between January 30th and November 20th 2020 of people in England between the ages of 30 and 100 years
** ONS examines the impact on those who identified themselves as disabled in the 2011 census by either saying they were “a little limited” (less disabled) or “much limited” (more disabled) in their daily lives.
*** For information and support during the Coronavirus Crisis, please visit the DNS Advice and Information page
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