Leading psychiatrist appointed to independent inquiry into the deaths of people with learning disabilities

In the light of her research showing that adults with learning disabilities were 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 than the rest of the population, Professor Sheila Hollins has been appointed by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to an independent inquiry into unequal health outcomes for people with learning disabilities.

Professor Sheila Hollins, Professor of Psychiatry of Learning Disability st St George's, University of London, will be part of the Independent Inquiry being set up in response to the Mencap report 'Death by Indifference', which looked into institutional discrimination against people with disabilities by the NHS.

Professor Hollins said: “It will clearly be important to agree the desired outcomes from this Independent Inquiry. I think we know the problem; what we need now is commitment from government, NHS and health professionals to an effective strategy for tackling the problem of unequal health outcomes for people with learning disabilities.

“My own research on cause and age of death of people with learning disabilities in three London boroughs found that adults with learning disabilities were 58 times more likely to die before the age of 50 than the rest of the population. This contributed to the setting up of the Disability Rights Commission's formal investigation into the health inequalities of people with learning disabilities and people with severe mental illness which reported last year. The DRC Investigation focused on primary care, whereas the new Independent Inquiry will focus on hospital care.”

The inquiry will be chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael and is expected to report in six to nine months. The appointment of Professor Hollins will be announced on May 31.

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