Healthcare Commission announces fresh learning disabilities probe

The Healthcare Commission will carry out another review of learning disabilities services this year, following a damning study in 2007, it announced yesterday.

The study, which will be carried out with the Commission for Social Care Inspection, will examine commissioning arrangements and the quality of partnership working across health and social care.

It is conducting the review following concerns raised in last year’s audit of specialist NHS and independent learning disability health services, which found significant institutional failings were depriving many people of their human rights and dignity.

Cornwall and south London scandals

The audit itself was sparked by the institutional abuse scandals exposed by commission reports into services in Cornwall, in 2006, and Sutton and Merton, south London, in 2007.

Yesterday’s pledge came in the Healthcare Commission’s plans for its health check for 2008-9 – its annual assessment of NHS trusts’ performance – which also heralded the introduction of performance indicators for NHS learning disabilities providers.

The measures, which were proposed in last year’s audit, will cover the number of people with a care plan, delayed transfers of care, data quality on the ethnicity of service users and the number of people in campus provision.

Campus closure plan

The DH plans to close all campuses – clusters of NHS-run homes where residents are classed as patients regardless of any medical need – by 2010.

The commission has not included proposed indicators on individual health action plans for people with learning disabilities and trusts’ progress towards implementing the national service framework for mental health, in relation to people with learning disabilities.

It said the small number of indicators reflected the “limitations of existing national data”.

Besides the learning disabilities commissioning probe, the regulator will also conduct reviews into access to psychological therapies and barriers to accessing healthcare for disabled people.

Psychological therapies expansion

The former, which is designed to highlight gaps in information available, comes with the government due to increase spending on psychological therapies to £170m a year by 2010-11 and extend treatment to 900,000 more people over the next three years.

The disability review will look at “physical and attitudinal barriers” to accessing different health services, to ensure they are “effectively taking on the needs of all groups of patients”.

The commission will also work on developing indicators for primary care trusts on children’s health, including for vulnerable and disabled children.

Related articles

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Expert guide to learning disabilities services

More information

Healthcare Commission information on learning disabilities


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