Autistic people in England who do not also have a learning disability are approximately 51% more likely to die in a single year compared to the general population, according to a leaked document which estimates the mortality rate for the first time.
According to an internal NHS England document, seen by HSJ, the standardised mortality rate between April 2020 and March 2021 was 16.6 deaths per 10,000 for people with autism and no learning disability compared to 11 deaths per 10,000 for the general population.
NHSE also determined life expectancy for this group to be 75 years – 5.4 years less than the general population.
Dominic Slowie, former national clinical director for learning disability, told HSJ that because of the different ways autism presents itself, it can be difficult to pinpoint causes of premature mortality.
“In some cases, people with autism who are severely disabled and can’t communicate their needs in a conventional way are going to have premature mortality for the same reasons that people with a learning disability do, because people do not really understand the level of their need or do not investigate their need in a reasonably adjusted way,” he said.
“While, if someone is presenting atypically in their communication, we mustn’t make presumptions – we must make reasonable adjustments to ensure they are investigated and diagnosed in the same way.”
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Source: HSJ, 13 December 2022