Learning difficulties care 'must improve'

The Healthcare Commission has called for radical change in the way patients with learning difficulties are cared for in England.

The current standard of care is depriving some people of their human rights and dignity, according to a report published by the watchdog this week.

Insufficient attention is paid to safeguarding vulnerable people across all aspects of their care and many live bleak lives, the report found.

The DoH has responded by promising reform of the care system with regular monitoring.

Results of the first audit of specialist inpatient healthcare services for people with learning difficulties found that services operated off the radar of the healthcare system. There was poor training and no framework to measure services.

The report found that many PCTs and health authorities had not inspected the care provider they commissioned in the last six months. Five care providers were reported to local authorities for further investigation (see box).

The audit looked particularly at specialist inpatient services provided by the NHS and independent organisations, but not those registered with the Commission for Social Care Inspection, which regulates most of the country's care homes.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said: 'We welcome this report and its findings and are pleased that the Healthcare Commission will now be monitoring NHS trusts' performance every year. All relevant NHS organisations will have to deliver action plans setting out what they are doing to address these shortcomings.'


Healthcare Commission report

Care providers to undergo investigation:

  • Bromley PCT.
  • North Lincolnshire PCT.
  • Care Principles Ltd.
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.
  • Sandwell Mental Health and Social Care Trust.
    Source: Healthcare Commission
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