18 November 2011
Mencap have said that a High Court judge's ruling on the way complaints about the treatment of disabled patients are approached is "deeply concerning" and that it could lead to people with a disability continuing to "die needlessly while in NHS care".
Leigh Day & Co represented Mencap in their challenge on the legality of the approach taken by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Ann Abraham when investigating the treatment of six patients whose deaths were described in a 2007 Mencap report called Death By Indifference.
In the report the charity, which supports people with learning disabilities, questioned whether Ms Abraham was right to identify "reasonable steps" medics should have taken yet still find their conduct "within range of reasonable practice".
The case asked for a declaration, which would "guide practice" and would run "along the lines" of: "Where a health service body has failed to comply with the 'reasonable adjustments' duty... that is a failure in service and/or... maladministration."
This declaration would clarify the "obligation" on healthcare workers to make "reasonable adjustments" when dealing with disabled patients.
Lawyer Merry Varney
, from Leigh Day & Co - which represented Mencap, said: "We find this judgment by Mr Justice Mitting deeply concerning. The law is very clear that reasonable adjustments must be made for disabled people.
"If the Ombudsman in charge of monitoring the provision of healthcare treatment can find that these adjustments have not been made yet still give a doctor or health authority a clean bill of health it raises many worrying questions."
She added: "Not least of these is why should those who are at the sharp end of administering care, and arguably have most contact with disabled people, be excused from a law which aims to protect the rights of the disabled. We will be taking instructions from our client on appealing the decision."
Mencap said Mr Justice Mitting had failed to send a "powerful message" about the need for health professionals to comply with legal obligations.
Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.