Last night, BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme was about Transforming Care and the use of restraints on adults with learning disabilities in hospital units in England.

The programme, called 'Transforming Care - Is it working?' focused on new data the BBC had acquired from NHS Digital that showed that the use of restraints in hospital units rose by almost 50% between 2016 and 2017.  

The BBC investigation found that in 2016 restraints were used 15,000 times; in 2017 they were used 22,000 times, on average once every half hour.

The programme also explored the fact that the government’s pledge to move between 35% and 50% of people with learning disabilities and autism out of hospitals and into the community by March 2019 is unlikely to be met. 

Figures show the number of adults in inpatient units in England has only reduced from around 2,600 to 2,400 and the number of children in such units has almost doubled. 

Mencap has been working with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to continue to pressure the Government and NHS England to ensure real change happens for people with a learning disability and their families.

Responding to the new data and File on 4 programme, Dan Scorer, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Mencap and Viv Cooper, CEO, Challenging Behaviour Foundation said:

The treatment of people with learning disabilities within these inpatient units is one of the biggest domestic human rights issues of our time. These horrific revelations reinforce the fact that the Government and NHS England must urgently do a detailed analysis about where this is happening and why the use of restraints has increased so dramatically in recent years. It is recognised that people are at increased risk of neglect and abuse in these settings. Guidance to reduce restrictive practices was published in 2014 by NHS England and is clearly not being implemented. NHS England are aware that this huge malpractice is taking place within units and it is a violation of people's human rights, yet we know they have not acted on it. 

Restrictive interventions, such as physical and chemical restraint, can have a significant and life long traumatic impact. After Winterbourne View, the Government promised to transform care for people with learning disabilities. Seven years later, it is shocking to see so many people still locked up in these in-patient units and subjected to these kinds of treatments and it's clear that these promises set out by the Government are unlikely to be met.

Ciara Lawrence, Mencap Campaigns Support Officer, talks about her thoughts on the new data programme here.


For further information, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or

About Mencap

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email

You can read more about our campaigning following the Winterbourne View Scandal here: