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Needless deaths continue
Thursday 14 October 2010
The Department of Health has highlighted continuing failures in care for people with a learning disability
The Department of Health has published its findings on the progress of 'Six Lives' – last year's report containing evidence that hospitals are failing to provide proper healthcare to people with a learning disability.
'Six Lives' was published by the health ombudsman in March 2009, in response to Mencap's 'Death by indifference' campaign. It revealed 'significant and distressing failures' in health and social care services and that people with a learning disability experienced 'prolonged suffering and poor care'.
Since 'Six Lives' was published, a further 14 deaths have been reported to Mencap, which families blame on hospital blunders, poorly trained staff and indifference.
In the introduction to the report, care services minister Paul Burstow says: "People with learning disabilities and family carers still report experiences of care that fall well short of the standards we should all be able to expect."
The report highlights a number of areas that need improvements, including complaints procedures and advocacy support for people with a learning disability. It highlights the need for more, better quality annual health checks (currently 60% of people with a learning disability are not receiving them). And it calls for more training for mainstream staff on communication and making reasonable adjustments.
"This report is a stark warning that too many parts of the NHS still don't understand how to treat people with a learning disability," said Mark Goldring, Mencap's chief executive. "If attitudes, training and clinical practices aren't overhauled across the board people will continue to die needlessly.
"Health professionals need to properly understand how to apply the Mental Capacity Act as too often decisions are not made in the best interest of the patient. Doctors should be trained to intervene early to treat people with a learning disability, rather than waiting.
"It is also essential that funding of the Confidential Inquiry and Public Health Observatory continues so that people with a learning disability do not keep dying needlessly. The failure by some hospitals to act reflects the deep-seated discrimination against people with a learning disability that still exists in the NHS."
Mencap is calling on all health trusts to sign up to and implement its nine-point 'Getting it right' charter. It is also asking the health ombudsman to publish a follow up report on NHS Trusts' progress in 2012.
Read the report on the Department of Health website