Care reviews for all with learning disabilities and autism

All 2,250 patients with learning disabilities and autism who are inpatients in a mental health hospital will have their care reviewed over the next 12 months, Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock has announced.

As part of the review, the Government will commit to providing each with a discharge date, or, where this is not appropriate, a clear explanation of why, and a plan to move them closer towards being ready for discharge into the community. The Department of Health & Social Care says the announcement builds on recent statistics showing there has already been a 22% reduction in inpatient numbers since March 2015. The Government has also committed to ensuring that a further 400 further inpatients are discharged by March this year.

Meanwhile, an independent panel, chaired by Baroness Sheila Hollins, will be established to oversee the case reviews of those in long-term segregation, to further improve their care and support their discharge as quickly as possible. To include independent experts who will ‘monitor, challenge, and advise on the progress of case reviews of those in the most restrictive settings, with the aim of supporting more people to be discharged’, the panel will expect a clear plan towards a discharge date, or an explanation for how providers are progressing toward one. The Department says this is ‘a direct response to the recommendation of the Care Quality Commission’s ‘review of restrictive practices’. All inpatients will also have a case review focused on how to discharge them into the community.

To ‘enhance transparency’, data on inpatients in mental health settings with a learning disability or autism will, in future, be available in the form of an ‘information dashboard’. In addition, every NHS and social care worker will receive mandatory training relevant to their role. Backed by £1.4 million of government funding, it will focus on:

  • Understanding learning disability and autism.
  • Legislation and rights.
  • ‘Making reasonable adjustments’, such as using different communication methods for autistic people with sensory sensitivities

Work is already underway to deliver the training, with testing to take place in a variety of health and social care settings ‘to help shape its future delivery’. A consultation process that gauged the views of over 5,000 people – from charities, patient groups, professional bodies, and the public, saw mandatory training ‘overwhelmingly backed’.

Matt Hancock said: “The current system for those living with learning disabilities and autism can leave them in isolation for long periods, with no prospect of release. I am determined to put this right, and today we are committing to reviewing the care of every patient with learning disability and autism over the next 12 months, alongside a clear plan to get them discharged back into their homes and communities. I have also asked for advice on separating out the law regarding those with learning disabilities and autism from the law regarding mental health.”

Baroness Sheila Hollins: “I don’t think it can ever be right to segregate someone as a form of care, let alone with no planned end-date. The oversight panel will actively review progress of an action learning project designed to identify existing barriers, and implement solutions that will transform people’s lives. Our focus will be on each person’s humanity, and entitlement to live an ordinary and safe life in a place where their concerns and needs will be understood and met by supporters who treat them respectfully, and have the right skills and supervision.”