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Learning disability laws ignored

30th July 2008

An inquiry report has found that people with learning disabilities are suffering and even dying as laws to protect them are ignored by the NHS in England.

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The independent inquiry was launched after the deaths of six patients were highlighted in an investigation by the charity Mencap in 2007. Those cases are currently with the Health Service Ombudsman.

However, while it called for tougher inspections and more training for staff it said that new laws to ensure equal access were not needed.

The inquiry was chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a former chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, and examined the treatment of people with learning disabilities in the NHS across England.

It found that existing guidelines and laws, such as the Disability Discrimination Act, designed to ensure people with learning disabilities got equal treatment were not being followed.

Sir Jonathan said: "We do not need a new framework - the legislation is already in place. The challenge is to make it work as effectively for people with learning disabilities as anyone else, and I know that there are many examples of good practice to show us the way."

Inquiry recommendations included hospitals having to show that have taken into account the needs of people with learning disabilities with health inspectors assessing this and a "National Confidential Inquiry" set up to monitor the response of the NHS in future years.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities welcomed the report but said immediate action needs to be taken to implement its recommendations."

 

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