74 deaths and counting
Wednesday 15 February 2012
Mencap report finds NHS still unsafe for people with a learning disability
Mencap is calling on the government to make the NHS safe for people with a learning disability, following the publication, today (Wednesday 15 February), of a new report ‘Death by indifference: 74 deaths and counting’, which finds continued institutional discrimination in the NHS.
The new report looks at what progress has been made since the publication of Mencap’s original ‘Death by indifference’ report in 2007.
It confirms that, although some positive steps have been taken in the NHS, many health professionals are still failing to provide adequate care to people with a learning disability. The report highlights the deaths of 74 people with a learning disability in NHS care over the last ten years – highlighted in an article in The Guardian on 3 January – which Mencap believes are a direct result of institutional discrimination and could have been avoided.
The report uncovers common errors made by healthcare professionals. These include failure to abide by disability discrimination law, ignoring crucial advice from families and failing to meet even basic care needs. Mencap believes that this is underpinned by an assumption by some healthcare professionals that people with a learning disability are not worth treating.
The report also shows there has been no systematic monitoring by the Department of Health to ensure that the health needs of people with a learning disability are being met.
Mark Goldring, Mencap chief executive, said: “The report confirms that five years on from our landmark ‘Death by indifference’ report, many parts of the NHS still do not understand how to treat people with a learning disability. At Mencap, we continue to hear heartbreaking stories of unnecessary deaths and pain.
“Although some significant steps have been taken within the NHS, where progress has been made it has been patchy and inconsistent. If the government doesn’t get to grips with this serious issue, more people will die unnecessarily.”
To end discrimination in the NHS and ensure people with a learning disability receive the same quality of care as the rest of the population, Mencap is calling for a number of commitments. These include annual health checks to become a permanent part of the GP contract, all health professionals to act within the law and get training around the Equality Act and Mental Capacity Act, regulatory bodies to conduct rigorous investigations and deliver appropriate sanctions where health professionals have failed in their obligations to patients with a learning disability, and a standard hospital passport for all people with a learning disability.
Health trusts can sign up to Mencap’s Getting it right charter, aimed at stopping indifference and making rights a reality for patients with a learning disability.