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Standard of healthcare available to people with learning disabilities criticised by Health Minister

After the Department of Health publication of the ‘Six Lives Progress Report on Healthcare for People with Learning Disabilities’ and the ‘Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities’, which both show the standard of care and inequality faced by people with learning disabilities is still of a poor standard, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb says more needs to be done.

Mr Lamb said, whilst launching the Government’s official response: “It is not good enough that people with learning disabilities are at a greater risk of dying earlier due to poor healthcare … Good, high quality care should be expected for everyone. We wouldn’t accept this kind of poor care for cancer patients so there is no reason why it is acceptable for people with learning disabilities … We are making progress on improving standards of care but we have to go further and keep driving forward our plans.”

The way that people with learning disabilities are identified will be improved so as to better meet their needs and the Department of Health has outlined progress on improving healthcare – giving people with learning disabilities a greater voice.  Work within NHS England to monitor and improve their treatment is a priority.

Not everyone is happy with what the Government are doing, and feel that they could do more in the light of the findings published in the two documents.  Campaigns manager at Mencap, Dan Scorer said: “We are hugely disappointed at the Government’s weak response to the recommendations outlined in the Confidential Inquiry. While there are some positive activities outlined, the Government does not address key recommendations.

“Independent research shows that over 1,200 children and adults with a learning disability continue to die unnecessarily every year in England because of discrimination in the NHS. This is the equivalent of a scandal on the scale of Mid-Staffordshire every year for people with a learning disability. The lack of decisive leadership by the Government shows a continued failure to place equal value on the lives of people with a learning disability.

“A delayed commitment by the Government to set up a national body to monitor and investigate the deaths of people with a learning disability is a lost opportunity to learn from mistakes and stop this tragic waste of life. Furthermore, it is utterly disrespectful to the families of those who have lost their lives due to poor NHS care.”

Mr Scorer continued: “Since the launch of Mencap’s ‘Death by Indifference’ report in 2007, which exposed how unequal healthcare and institutional discrimination had led to the deaths of six people with a learning disability, there has been little progress. Patients with a learning disability experience delays in diagnosis, delays in treatment, lack of basic care and poor communication by health professionals. This is simply unacceptable.

“The confidential inquiry showed that over a third of deaths of people with a learning disability was due to them not getting the right health care. How many more deaths at the hands of the NHS do there need to be before the Government takes this issue seriously?”

  • August 12th, 2013
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