• Report shows high premature mortality rate among disabled people in care

  • Half of all care services branded inadequate for disabled people

  • Misdiagnosis and failure to provide the right services most common cause of premature deaths

A damning new report has for the first time revealed the extent to which people with learning disabilities are being systematically maltreated within the NHS – with nearly half dying prematurely.

The report entitled ‘Confidential Inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD)’ revealed that a shocking 42 per cent of people with learning disabilities die prematurely.

A further 43 per cent of deaths were unexpected and avoidable. According to the report, the most common cause of premature deaths were failure to provide appropriate care, delays and misdiagnosis, and problems with identifying needs.

The report told of how patients were often left to starve, or were severely dehydrated because of a failure to give them the right amount of water.

Even more shockingly, 50 per cent of all hospitals and care homes examined by the CIPOLD team were found to be inadequate, providing substandard care for people with learning disabilities.

The CIPOLD report was launched after a series of indicting reports published over the last few years revealed a catalogue of abuses and maltreatment of vulnerable people at the hands of health service providers who were supposed to be caring for them.

Other findings that were highlighted within the report were that just under half of deaths could have been avoided had the appropriate care been given.

If 42 per cent of the general population were dying prematurely in hospitals – it would cause a national outrage and bring the country to a standstill.

So why then the deafening silence for those who to all intents and purposes, do not have a voice?

Another problem highlighted within the report was the complete lack of concern shown by some doctors towards disabled patients.

A sister of one disabled lady, who has not been named was quoted in the report as saying: “I mean the doctor came out on the Friday before she died and said that he thought that she
had a water infection. He said that he could either give her antibiotics or leave it. What did he mean by that? I mean, leave it?”

The report also highlighted how both social and medical professionals failed to adhere to the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which introduced a set of guidelines about giving adults the dignity to make their own decisions concerning their healthcare and giving them the practical means to do so, unless they are proven completely incapable of making decisions.

 It was also designed to safeguard the basic rights and freedoms of the person in question, and instructed all medical staff to act in their best interests.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is very unfortunate that legislation needs to be passed in order to treat another man or woman with dignity in a medical setting, one of the saddest outcomes of the report was that despite the legislation, staff working within these institutions had consistently failed to do so.

Furthermore, 29 per cent of those with learning disabilities faced delays in their diagnosis, while a lack of reasonable facilities and resources contributed to the death of many vulnerable people.

And in spite of all the intrusive DNA records and privacy leaks which health services in the UK have become known for, in the case of those with learning disabilities, GPs often neglected to mention their disability to other care providers, leading to a lack of basic provision. It was also shown that there was a lack of coordination of care services across different providers.

In another case study highlighted within the report, one relative of a vulnerable patient was quoted as saying: “We’re not saying it’s to do with neglect, they might have found he just wouldn’t eat anything but if somebody doesn’t eat for days and days, you do something don’t you, surely you do?”

According to the authors of the study, those who are unable to express themselves as well as able-bodied people, or perhaps those with conditions such as dementia, are often let down by the very GPs and services that they entrust their care too.

“The quality and effectiveness of health and social care given to people with learning disabilities has been shown to be deficient in a number of ways. Despite numerous previous investigations and reports, many professionals are either not aware of, or do not include adapt services to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities,” the report said.

A series of recommendations was made by the report, which included annual health checks and better coordination of services, ensuring that guidelines are followed, so that there are adequate resources in hospitals to deal with patient needs, and the creation of a National Learning Disability Mortality Review Body.

These new findings come just one year after the Winterbourne View care home scandal rocked the UK, after it was found that staff at the care home regularly subjected the residents to physical and verbal abuse and aggression.

The average weekly fee for a patient at the 26-bed hospital, which opened in 2006 and had a turnover of £3.7 million at its peak, was £3,500.

An undercover reporter from the BBC armed with a hidden camera filmed members of staff at the care home using restraint techniques to inflict pain, dragging disabled patients across the floor, torturing them and subjecting them to humiliation.

In one video clip, staff members were shown poking a resident repeatedly in the eyes, giving patients cold punishment showers, and pulling their hair.

Another video showed a patient trying to jump from a second floor window to escape the torment, and was then mocked by staff members.

The facility has since been closed and six members of staff were jailed, while a further five were given suspended sentences. However, the punishment did not extend to the company and bosses who were making money off of the home.

The scandal prompted an investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with the familiar “lessons learned” mantra trotted out from prime minister David Cameron.

Worryingly, this new report from the CIPOLD team shows that such failures are far from over, and very few lessons has been learned.

Therefore the question remains, why have the government repeatedly failed to improve the quality of care for vulnerable people? And if we allow the most vulnerable and weakest people within society to be treated this way, what is to stop other members of society from being subjected to the same abuses, in a country where the erosion of civil liberties has virtually continued unnoticed by the general population?

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