Shocking deaths of six people with learning disabilities details unnecessary suffering at the hands of the NHS

An inquiry into the deaths of six patients with learning disabilities while being treated by the National Health Service (NHS) has revealed shocking details.

The inquiry has reached the conclusion that the appalling neglect the six suffered at the hands of the NHS were "not isolated incidents".

The independent inquiry found the deaths of the five men and one woman, highlighted in a report last year, were symptomatic of a wider malaise in the health service and says the NHS has failed to ensure people with learning disabilities get proper treatment in accordance with the law and are dying or suffering unnecessary pain.

The cases included a 43 year old man without speech, who went without food for 26 days after suffering a stroke; a 26 year old woman who was given a fifty-fifty chance of survival after being diagnosed with cancer but was denied treatment as doctors thought she would be un-cooperative; a 30 year old man who died following perforation of the appendix when his parents were told he had a virus.

The report says there is no need for new legislation but action needs to be taken to ensure that people are treated equally across the NHS.

The report makes ten recommendations including annual health checks for the 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in the UK, in order to pick up early signs of illness that they may be unable to communicate, stronger leadership, systems for better regulation, inspections and information, and more staff training and it also suggests that people with learning disabilities and their carers should also be involved as partners in the delivery of care.

The independent inquiry into health services for people with learning disabilities was launched in May following a damning report by learning disability charity Mencap.

The report 'Death by Indifference', highlighted the cases of the six people who died in NHS care, which Mencap said revealed "widespread ignorance and indifference" in the NHS to people with learning disabilities.

According to the inquiry witnesses detailed some appalling examples of discrimination, abuse and neglect across the range of health services, and experts have said the revelations are shocking but by no means isolated and have called for systems to be employed which ensure quality of health services for people with learning disabilities to be strengthened at a national level.

Mencap says it has since received 20 further reports of patients who have died as a result of neglect in NHS institutions, and 15 serious incidents.

Experts say people with learning disabilities must be treated as equal citizens, with equal rights of access to equally effective treatment and the provision by the NHS of compulsory disability equality training for all its staff is overdue.

They have called for the individual needs of disabled people to be recognised and respected and say disabled people, whatever their impairment, have a right to the same quality of care as everyone else when seeking medical treatment and should be able to approach medical services with complete confidence.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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