Health and healthcare of people with learning disabilities in the United Kingdom through the COVID-19 pandemic

Chris Hatton*, Richard P. Hastings, Sue Caton, Jill Bradshaw, Andrew Jahoda, Rosemary Kelly, Roseann Maguire, Edward Oloidi, Laurence Taggart, Stuart Todd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, many health services were withdrawn from people with learning disabilities, with negative impacts on people's health. What has happened to people's health and healthcare as we move beyond the pandemic?. 

Methods: Access to health services and health status were tracked for 550 UK adults with learning disabilities, using structured online interviews with people with learning disabilities and online surveys with family members or paid carers. Information was provided four times, from Wave 1 (in the winter 2020/2021 ‘lockdown’) to Wave 4 (autumn 2022, over a year after public health protections stopped). 

Findings: By Wave 4, most people with learning disabilities had had COVID-19, although high vaccination rates limited the number of people hospitalised. There was little evidence that use of GP services, community nurses, other therapists or annual health checks had increased over time, and at Wave 4 more people were having difficulty getting their medicines. People's health did not substantially improve over time. People with profound and multiple learning disabilities had poorer health and were less likely to be accessing health services. 

Conclusions: Improvements in access to health services for people with learning disabilities after the pandemic have not yet happened.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12578
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number00
Early online date15 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2024


  • health
  • health and social care policy and practice
  • learning (intellectual) disabilities


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