29 July 2008
, chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a former chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, has found that learning disabled people are suffering unnecessary pain, and even death as laws designed to protect them are regularly ignored by staff in the NHS.
The inquiry was set up following the publication of a report, Death by indifference
, that was published in March 2007 by Mencap. The report revealed a shocking picture of institutional discrimination in the NHS against people with severe learning disabilities, particularly where there is the added complication of limited communication skills. The stories of six people were presented who are all believed to have died unnecessarily because of the fatal lack of understanding by healthcare professionals of their needs. Sir Jonathan found that existing guidelines and laws - such as the Disability Discrimination Act - aimed at making sure that people with learning disabilities got equal treatment were not being followed but said that new laws to ensure equal access were not needed.
The Inquiry makes ten essential recommendations for change:
- More effective leadership is essential;
- The government should direct commissioners of healthcare to develop more appropriate, proactive, `reasonably adjusted’ health services for people with learning disabilities – including health checks and staff to support access to the NHS;
- Core Standards for Better Health should be amended to reflect the requirement to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to services to ensure they are accessible to people with learning disabilities
- Systems of inspection and regulation must be strengthened at all levels to include assessment of the provision of health services to people with learning disabilities
- The government should establish a National Confidential Inquiry and a Public Health Observatory to provide essential information at national and local level.
- Data and information systems must be improved across the board to ensure all healthcare organisations can identify people with learning disabilities.
- Education and training on learning disabilities should be made compulsory for medical students and should be improved throughout the NHS.
- Local services should work in partnership with people with learning disabilities and their carers to plan care.
- Local services should work in partnership with people with learning disabilities and their carers to provide care.
- Trust Boards should be able to demonstrate that they have effective, legal, `reasonably adjusted’ services in place.
Frances Swaine, head of the human rights department at Leigh Day & Co, who, working with MENCAP, has advised several of the families whose childrens' deaths are the subject of the inquiry said:
"Whilst Sir Jonathan's inquiry has identified much good practice in the NHS towards learning disabled individuals it is vital that weaknesses in the system that he has identified are tackled and the inquiry's recommendations implemented with as little delay as possible."
For more information please contact Frances Swaine
on 020 7650 1200.
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