Premature deaths set to be probed

The government has announced a confidential inquiry into premature
deaths among people with learning difficulties.

The Department of Health has asked the National Patient Safety
Agency to establish the best way of conducting the inquiry, and
research will be commissioned by Birmingham University.

It follows calls from campaigners, including the Disability Rights
Commission, which is conducting a separate investigation on health
care inequalities for disabled people.

The Valuing People white paper, published in March 2001, included
an undertaking to look at the feasibility of establishing a
confidential inquiry into mortality among people with learning

People with learning difficulties are 58 times more likely to die
before the age of 50 than the rest of the population, with
preventable death rates four times higher than average, according
to research.

In a written ministerial statement, community care minister Stephen
Ladyman said: “Our intention is that this inquiry should be carried
out in a new and more flexible style compared to previous
inquiries. It will be time-limited and produce results that can
then be used to inform practice.”

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