DH announces probe into premature deaths of learning disabled

The Department of Health will commission a confidential inquiry into the premature deaths of people with learning disabilities who had received healthcare from the NHS.

The announcement was included in today’s Valuing People Now strategy. The probe was originally proposed by an independent inquiry into healthcare for people with learning disabilities led by former NHS trust chief Sir Jonathan Michael. Michael’s report, published last July, said a confidential inquiry would raise awareness within the NHS of the risk of avoidable deaths.

Ministers today said they had accepted this and all other recommendations in the Michael report, which found that the NHS was widely failing to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities.

Improved training for medical students

As a result, the DH will work with regulatory bodies to improve the training of medical students and health workers in caring for people with learning disabilities.

And the NHS Information Centre will ask GPs to improve the recording of information about patients’ learning disabilities, and share this with other healthcare providers.

The government commissioned the Michael inquiry following Mencap’s 2007 report, Death by Indifference. This highlighted six cases of people with learning disabilities who the charity argued had died prematurely because of poor healthcare.

Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring welcomed today’s announcement.

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