Progress on improving health and social care for learning disabled people has been slow despite a damning report last year, the Department of Health said today.
The quality of care for the client group was “at best patchy and at worst an indictment of our society”, last year’s report by the health and local government ombudsmen into the deaths of six learning disabled people in hospital found.
But today’s progress report by the DH said improvements were “overly reliant on individual staff members or local groups” and had not been mainstreamed.
Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring described the DH report as a warning that too many staff did not understand the needs of people with learning disabilities. “If attitudes, training and clinical practices aren’t overhauled across the board, people will continue to die needlessly,” he said.
Care services minister Paul Burstow writes in his introduction to the report: “People with learning disabilities and family carers still report experiences of care that fall well short of the standards we should all be able to expect.”
The report said one of the biggest worries raised by those giving evidence was the lack of staff knowledge around the Mental Capacity Act. Carers reported having to routinely talk staff through their responsibilities in this area.
Carers also said that complaints procedures in health and social care organisations remained difficult to understand and took too long to access.
The progress report also raised the need for greater awareness and training for staff on learning disability issues.
A key target for improving the health of people with learning disabilities is regular health checks. The report revealed that, although the number of people receiving these had nearly doubled from 2008-9 to 2009-10, only 41% of eligible people were receiving them.
“There’s more that social care staff could do to make sure that people get access to health care – for example, when someone should get a health check, making sure that they do,” said Beverley Dawkins, national officer for profound and severe learning disabilities at Mencap.
She added that the recommendations in the report may not be implemented because of the reorganisation of the NHS under the government’s health White Paper proposals and a lack of funds.
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