People with learning disabilities can be vulnerable and ostracised in the community yet being in an institution is not the answer either.
All too readily people with learning disabilities or mental health problems are ignored. Indeed there are regular deaths which are not really investigated.
The Southern Health cases have been prevalent in the news and there have been some investigations but not enough is being done.
This article recently appeared in Community Care
For those not familiar with it, Connor Sparrowhawk, a young man with learning disabilities, died while under the care of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in July 2013. Given the trust’s failure to accept responsibility, Connor’s family and friends launched the Justice for LB campaign (Laughing Boy, ‘LB’, was Connor’s nickname).
The trust initially said Connor died of ‘natural causes’ but an independent investigation found his death could have been prevented. Last year, an inquest jury found that neglect contributed to his death.
‘Failure of leadership’
Before Christmas, there was a sense that this campaign was leading to real change. Most notably, the findings were revealed from an NHS England-commissioned report (the Mazars review) into Southern Health’s handling of patient deaths.
The report described how the trust had, among other things, failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths of people with learning disabilities or mental health conditions. It blamed a “failure of leadership” and warned investigators had “little confidence” the trust fully recognised the need to improve.
Strong words were said by people in authority. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt was “profoundly shocked” by the findings. Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, spoke of the health service being at a “cultural turning point” at which it must change the way it responds to families.
Lack of changes
However, since Christmas, far less has been said. It is also hard to identify any significant change to emerge from the litany of criticism that followed the Mazars report. What has happened to permit the silence that now surrounds this scandal?
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