People with learning disabilities should be given legal powers over treatment, say MPs

A group of MPs are calling for the rights of people with learning disabilities to be protected in law

People with learning disabilities should be legally empowered to challenge decisions about their treatment, MPs have said.

In a report published today, chair of the Commons public accounts committee Margaret Hodge said it is ‘too difficult’ for patients to influence decisions affecting their admission to a mental health hospital, their treatment or their discharge.

Her comments follow an inquiry held by the committee into why thousands of people with learning disabilities are still living in institutional care.

In December 2012, following the Winterbourne View private hospital care scandal, the government made a commitment that, if a person with a learning disability would be better off supported in the community, they should be moved out of hospital by June 2014.

But it failed to meet the pledge and the number of people in mental health hospitals in England has remained at approximately 3,200. A fifth have been institutionalised for more than five years, said the committee.

Ms Hodge said: ‘It is essential that the redesign of the system puts people with learning disabilities at the heart. Proper consideration must, therefore, be given not just to building capacity in the community, but also enshrining in law patients’, and their families’, right to challenge the decisions taken.’

The committee welcomed a promise by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens that many residential hospitals would be closed over the next two years. Mr Stevens told the committee that commissioners would now be told that the institutional model was 'completely inappropriate', acknowledging that it had been ‘indefensible’ to make so little progress against the previous commitment.

Ms Hodge called on the Department of Health to collect the data it needs to effectively co-ordinate a programme of care and to identify how funding can follow the patient from hospital into the community.


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