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Report reveals institutionalised discrimination for people with learning disabilities

A day after the government announced the appointment of Anne Williams as the new National Director for Learning Disabilities to address inequality, an inquiry has revealed the true extent of discrimination suffered by people with a learning disability.

The investigation entitled “Healthcare for all” has revealed that people with learning disabilities are suffering, in some cases dying because the NHS are not following statutory guidelines to protect them.

The enquiry was chaired by Sir Jonathan Michael, a former chief executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It was launched following the death of six patients with a learning disability. The incidents included a woman refused treatment because doctors thought she may not cooperate, another victim was starved to death following a stroke.

Sir Jonathon’s findings confirmed huge disparities between the experiences of patients with a learning disability and that of other patients. However the report does not suggest theintroduction of any changes to legislation or policy. Instead the report suggests ensuring that guidelines set out by existing laws such as the Disability Discrimination Act are followed. Furthermore the report recommends making appropriate adjustments needed to ensure patients with a learning disability are treated equally.

The Inquiry looked to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to take a leading role in improving coordination among various health care inspection agencies and, when necessary, take robust enforcement action. As a further check and balance the report called for the setting up of a "National Confidential Inquiry" to monitor the response of the NHS in future years.

Responding to the findings Alison Giraud-Saunders, from the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, said:

"While the report it is to be welcomed, it must not be allowed to join the growing pile of paper promises that people with a learning disability have become used to."

"Immediate action needs to be taken to implement the inquiry's recommendations."

Patrick Diamond, Group Director of Strategy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

Dignity and respect are not optional extras when it comes to caring for people, including those with learning disabilities. There should never be a second class service. This report has made what is often invisible visible, and is a stark warning that more must be done to prevent any more tragic and unnecessary deaths.'

Commenting on the publication of Sir Jonathan Michael's report, Healthcare for All, Steve Barnett, Acting Chief Executive at the NHS Confederation which represents over 95% of NHS organisations said:

"We welcome the publication of Sir Jonathan Michael's important report and his comprehensive recommendations.  The NHS completely accepts the need to urgently address poor practice building on what is known about good quality care.

Responding to the findings Mencap’s chief executive Dame Jo Williams, called for mandatory learning disability training for all health care professionals.

Ends

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Healthcare For All report

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Asif Yusuf
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