NHS England has today confirmed that an independent review will now be held into the death of 18 year-old Oliver McGowan.

Oliver died in 2016 after he was given anti-psychotic medication against his own and his parents’ wishes and despite medical records showing he had an intolerance to anti-psychotics.

A clinical commissioning group was found to have interfered in an earlier investigation into his death.

The findings of this review will also inform the national learning disability mortality review process following concerns around its independence.

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at Mencap, and a member of the oversight group into the review of Oliver’s death, said:

“We have been supporting Paula and Tom McGowan over the last two years in their campaign for answers and accountability in relation to the death of their son Oliver and wider change to the way the NHS works with people with a learning disability and/or autism and their families. Following interference in the process of reviewing Oliver’s death, we are pleased that NHS England have agreed to an independent review that will complete Oliver’s mortality review.

Following a long campaign by Paula and Tom, NHS England and independent experts will now look into what caused Oliver’s death, and ensure that key learnings are identified and shared. I look forward to working with Dr Celia Ingham Clark from NHS England, independent chair Fiona Ritchie, and the other members of the oversight group to ensure that Paula and Tom get the answers that they’ve been seeking for so long.”


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office:

  • email media@mencap.org.uk
  • telephone 020 7696 5414 (this is the same number for out of hours contact).

Notes to editors

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 the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email helpline@mencap.org.uk.

What is a learning disability?

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life

  • Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’

  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.