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Tuesday, 08 May 2018

Learning disabilities mortality review finds 'very troubling' levels of abuse and gaps in care

Written by Elizabeth Arnold

The findings of a review into the early deaths of people with learning disabilities show a "much worse picture" than previous reports, Labour has warned.

Asking an urgent Commons question on the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review, shadow health and social care minister Barbara Keeley claimed it was "disgraceful" that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt "has just run out the chamber rather than answering this question himself".

Care minister Caroline Dinenage acknowledged the independent report "does make for very troubling reading", but added that the Government asked NHS England to commission it to "learn from these deaths and make sure that trusts up and down the country are better equipped to be able to prevent them happening in the future".

Ms Keeley raised concerns over the number of cases reviewed and the timing of the report's release.

She said: "Seven years after Winterbourne View (pictured) and five years since the avoidable death of Connor Sparrowhawk, the findings of this review show a much worse picture than previous reports about the early deaths of people with learning disabilities.

"One in eight of the deaths reviewed showed there had been abuse, neglect, delays in treatment or gaps in care.

"The Secretary of State announced to the House in December 2016 that he would ask the review for annual reports on its findings, so why was a review of this importance published during recess?

"Only 103 of 1,300 cases passed for review between July 2016 and November 2017 have been reviewed and that is a paltry number.

"The report cites a lack of local capacity, inadequate training for people completing mortality reviews and staff not having enough time away from their duties to be able to complete a review."

Ms Keeley asked what action the Government would be taking to show the families of people with learning disabilities that their relatives' lives do count.

Ms Dinenage said the Government was "absolutely committed" to reducing the number of people with learning disabilities who die preventable deaths.

The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review, she said, was established in June 2015 to support local areas in England to review the deaths of people with a learning disability and aimed to "identify common themes and learning points and to provide support to local areas in their development of action plans to take forward the lessons learned".

A report published on May 4 covering the period July 2016 to November 2017, she added, included 1,311 deaths and set out nine recommendations based on the 103 reviews completed.

She said the Government was supporting NHS England's funding of the programme for a further year at £1.4 million.

Ms Dinenage admitted the Government had "no more notice that this report was going to be published than she did and we are investigating through NHS England and others as to why that's happened".

She said the Government had introduced a new legal requirement so that from June 2018 every NHS trust will have to publish data on avoidable deaths including for people for have a learning disability.

"We're the first healthcare system in the world to publish estimates of how many people have died as a result of problems in their care."

Labour's Liz Kendall (Leicester West) said: "The true disgrace of this is none of this is new, and we have been here before. Five years ago the Government set out its promises to tackle this appalling death by indifference and yet we've seen no progress."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Tim Ireland / PA Wire.