Healthcare Commission probes health services for learning disabled

The Healthcare Commission will visit 48 specialist in-patient learning disability services starting this week to scrutinise progress following last year’s national audit.

The 2007 audit, which covered 72 NHS trusts and 17 independent organisations, found unacceptable variations in quality of specialist in-patient services and called for “sweeping and sustained changes“, sparking Anna Walker, chief executive of the commission, to say that the audit had “painted a bleak picture” of specialist healthcare services. 

The commission will scrutinise 10 services visited last year and another 38 not covered by the review.

Walker said about the follow up: “If we don’t keep the pressure up, we risk being in the same place in the future talking about the same problems. Indeed, I expect to see that services have already improved when we begin the follow-up visits.”

A commision report published this week found that specialist services for adolescents – of which eight were audited last year – were generally safe and protected young people from abuse. But it called for service users to be given more independence and control over their lives and more choice over where they lived.

The audit was sparked by learning disability abuse scandals in Cornwall in 2006 and in Sutton and Merton, south London, in 2007.

This year, all NHS learning disability services will be assessed against key indicators focusing on the quality of service for individuals as part of the annual performance assessment.

The healthcare watchdog is also working with the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission to undertake a national review of how learning disability services are commissioned by primary care trusts and local authorities.

More information

Healthcare Commission

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