The Financial Times reports that doctors will score patients on three metrics – their age, frailty and underlying conditions – according to [the] chart” which will determine whether the patient will receive critical care treatment should they fall seriously ill with coronavirus.

Mencap is concerned that this COVID-19 Decision Making Tool risks people with a learning disability being refused life-saving treatment and has acted immediately to address this with the NHS.

Edel Harris, CEO of the learning disability charity Mencap, said:

“This is the third instance of troubling discrimination against people with a learning disability. The first time we saw the Clinical Frailty Scale, we were seriously concerned, but we worked with NICE collaboratively to fix this and they listened to our concerns and acted. We then saw a slew of letters from GPs to perfectly healthy individuals advising them to complete Do Not Resuscitate Notices – but again, NHS England were equally concerned and wrote a very clear letter to all GPs telling them this was unacceptable. Now, we have this latest Decision Making Tool which presents a double whammy for people with a learning disability, penalising them for needing extra support with everyday activities, as well as for having a neurological condition. Are we reduced to refusing healthy people life-saving treatment because they have a disability?  I sincerely hope not.”

Read the full report in the Financial Times online here.


For further information, contact Mencap’s media team on or 020 7696 5414 (including out of hours).    

For advice and information on learning disability, including advice on coronavirus and healthcare, please contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email

Or visit Mencap’s website to access easy read information about coronavirus and resources on people with a learning disability’s rights in hospital.

Notes to editors

About Mencap 

There is 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 and also campaigns to change laws, improve services and challenge negative attitudes towards people with a learning disability. 


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.