Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: 

“Time and time again, evidence has shown people with a learning disability are facing devastating barriers to accessing healthcare – they are dying 25 years younger than the general population [i] and are three times more likely to die avoidably. This report clearly shows the vital role that learning disability nurses play in so many health and care settings, and the important work they do to address some of the most shocking challenges faced by people with a learning disability. 

“Learning disability nurses can make all the difference to a group of people so often forgotten. And whilst there has been some progress to boost training and recruitment, we need to see the Government urgently address the sustained fall in learning disability nurse numbers - particularly across England.

“These specialist nurses sit at the heart of changes we need to see - improving health outcomes and access to treatment for people with a learning disability, and investing in community services to reduce in-patient unit admissions. Governments, health and care agencies across the UK need to step up to meet the challenges the Royal College of Nursing has clearly set out.”


For further information or to arrange an interview with a Mencap spokesperson or case study, please contact Mencap’s media team on: media@mencap.org.uk or 020 7696 5414 (including out of hours).         

Notes to editors:   

[i] University of Bristol (2021) University of Bristol LeDeR annual report 2020

Data from LeDeR’s report suggests that in 2018-2019, the disparity between the median age at death for people with a learning disability (age 4 years and over) and the general population (all ages) was 23 years for males and 27 years for females.

About Mencap     

There are approximately 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want: www.mencap.org.uk        

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email helpline@mencap.org.uk.         

What is a learning disability?    

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life;    
  • Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’;     
  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.