Care Inspectorates Set Out Serious Learning Disability Service Concerns

{mosimage}The heads of two independent health and social care inspectorates have joined forces to highlight serious concerns about the care and treatment of people with learning disabilities.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, and David Behan, Chief Inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection have released a joint statement on learning disability services across England.

The statement says:

“Our Cornwall investigation report highlights unacceptable standards of care.  People with learning difficulties and their families have been let down. We hope they are reassured that what we have put in place has stabilised the situation and will improve services in Cornwall for the future.

“In light of these events, it is right to ask about the state of these services around the country.  Both our organisations have serious concerns that the quality of care is not always what it should be.

“Let us first be clear we are not saying that the abusive behaviour we found in Cornwall is happening everywhere.  But sadly Cornwall is not the only service where serious allegations have been made in recent months.

“In Norfolk, the Healthcare Commission has intervened at a privately run unit for adolescents with learning disabilities, which the owners subsequently closed down. In South London, Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust have asked us to investigate allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

“Instances of abuse can be symptomatic of services that have been neglected for too long. They are the most serious sign of a problem, but our concerns are much broader.  We detect a widespread lack of understanding about the rights and needs of people with learning disabilities.

What now?

“Much has been achieved since the Government introduced a framework for these services, called “Valuing People”. Self-advocacy is growing and communication is provided in ways that is accessible for people with learning disabilities.

“Now we must ensure that those running services well can share knowledge with those who need to improve.  It is very important to identify all of the things that are going well, as well as those that are not.

“This is why the Healthcare Commission, working with CSCI where appropriate, is to embark on a national audit and inspection programme of all NHS and independent healthcare providers.

“We aim to publish our findings later in 2007.  Providers will be asked to declare they are meeting expected standards and we will check what they have said through inspection.  If within the audit, services are identified that should be registered under the Care Standards Act, the Healthcare Commission will work with CSCI to ensure that this happens.

“With this comprehensive picture of what is going on, it will be possible to assess whether the system has the right levers in place to drive improvement.  We can assess improvement against the baseline we have established.

In conclusion

“More than a million people in England (2% of the population) are estimated to have learning disabilities. It is not acceptable to overlook the needs of these vulnerable people because they rarely capture the headlines or in some cases are unable to champion their own rights.”