Curb on visits poses risk to young people with learning disabilities–report
Parliamentary report highlights health threat to young people with learning disabilities and autism separated from their families
The health of young people with learning disabilities and autism is being put at risk because families are being prevented from visiting them during lockdown.
That is the conclusion of a report by parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights, which says young people are being put at risk because of ‘unlawful blanket bans’ , an increased use of solitary confinement and restraint, and because routine inspections have been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
'Allow families to visit unless it is deemed unsafe for them to do so after a risk assessment'
The committee wants NHS England to write to all hospitals – including private institutions it commissions places in – to allow families to visit unless it is deemed unsafe for them to do so after a risk assessment.
It also wants the Care Quality Commission to carry out unannounced inspections, a telephone hotline for families, patients and staff to report any concerns, more young people to be discharged safely into the community, and more data on the numbers of those people with learning disabilities and autism who have died from the virus.
Committee chair Harriet Harman said: ‘There’s always a danger to vulnerable people in closed institutions. The COVID-19 lockdown increases that danger, and the government must recognise it and take action.’
The cross-party committee took evidence from mothers of young people with learning disabilities who had self-harmed.
Referring to learning disability nurses she said she recognised that whistle-blowing was difficult for staff. Addressing such nurses, she said: ‘Thank you for working in this vocation, which is incredibly important. Everyone has an interest in the highest possible standards of care and the highest possible scrutiny.’
'This report has illustrated the distress that has been caused'
RCN adviser in criminal justice and learning disability nursing Ann Norman said learning disability nurses offering personalised care and support are crucial in ensuring that the recommendations of the report are acted on, and there needed to be more investment in the community nursing workforce.
‘During these times of COVID-19 there has been a need to support the most vulnerable within our society, and this report has illustrated the distress that has been caused to people. Prioritising their needs and the needs of their loved ones has to take greater priority,' she said.
NHS England, however, has insisted there is no blanket ban and that it has always been the case that people with learning disabilities can be visited by their families.
A spokesperson for the NHS said: 'Our national guidance sent to hospitals and other local health services has always supported visits across all inpatient settings when local organisations agree it is safe and appropriate to do so, and we have stated clearly that there must be no blanket ban.'
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