Death by indifference

Equal healthcare for all


As a result of receiving unequal healthcare, people with a learning disability are dying when their lives could be saved.

In 2007, following the deaths of six people with a learning disability in NHS care, Mencap published Death by indifference, which exposed the unequal healthcare and institutional discrimination that people with learning disabilities often experience within the NHS. Death by indifference played an important role in influencing the Department of Health to commission the Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with a learning disability.

Confidential Inquiry

On 19 March 2013, the Confidential Inquiry published the findings of its two year investigation. In total, the Inquiry examined the factors leading up to the deaths of 247 people with a learning disability aged four or older, who died between 1 June 2010 and 31 May 2012 in the South West of England.

It found that 37% of deaths of people with a learning disability were avoidable.

Over the past decade, families and carers have reported 85 deaths of people with a learning disability to Mencap. They have told us that hospital blunders, poorly trained staff and indifference are to blame for their loved ones’ death. The findings of the Inquiry confirm this and fears that people with a learning disability are still not receiving equal healthcare in all NHS settings and are continuing to die as a result. 

Mencap strongly supports all the recommendations of the Confidential Inquiry. People with a learning disability have a right to receive the same quality of healthcare as anyone else. We welcome and join the Confidential Inquiry’s call for the establishment of a National Learning Disability Mortality Review Body in England to continue monitoring deaths of people with a learning disability in the NHS. We believe that lessons must be learned from the findings and implemented throughout the NHS as a matter of urgency.

Further information

You can find more information about the Confidential Inquiry and download the full report at the Confidential Inquiry website.

Contact us

If you are concerned about the healthcare you, a relative or friend have or are receiving, Mencap Direct is here to help. Mencap Direct can help you in lots of different ways by phone, post, email, or by visiting you.

You can contact Mencap Direct if you have any questions or need advice, by calling 0808 808 1111, or you can email a question to help@mencap.org.uk

Cases of poor treatment in NHS care

The deaths of the following four people were reported to Mencap and highlight some of the key themes of poor care and institutional discrimination identified in the Confidential Inquiry.

Death by indifference cases

The deaths of the following six people were originally described in Mencap's 'Death by indifference' report.  

74 Deaths and counting report

In 2012, Mencap wrote a report looking into 74 hospital deaths as a follow up to the Death by indifference campaign.

Ombudsman's report

In March 2009 the Health Ombudsman published a damning indictment of the appalling neglect of six people with a learning disability who died in NHS care.

The Six Lives progress report

In July 2013, the Department of Health published its findings on the progress of 'Six Lives' - the 2009 report by the Health Ombudsman, containing evidence that hospitals are failing to provide proper healthcare to people with a learning disability.