Health secretary vows to improve treatment of vulnerable people in patient-segregated wards

Current system ‘not fit for purpose’, says Care Quality Commission 

Current system ‘not fit for purpose’, says Care Quality Commission

Secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock. Picture: Alamy

The care given in every patient-segregated ward will be independently reviewed, the health secretary has announced, after a report suggested many vulnerable people are being failed.

Matt Hancock said he has been ‘deeply moved and appalled’ by stories of people with autism and learning disabilities spending prolonged periods in mental health units, and vowed to improve their treatment.

An interim review into the use of restraint, segregation and prolonged seclusion in the health and care sector, published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on Tuesday, describes the current system as ‘not fit for purpose’.

It recommends that the care, safeguarding and discharge plan of every person with learning disabilities or autism held in segregation is examined, as well as that of children detained on mental health wards.

‘I have been deeply moved and appalled by the distressing stories of some autistic people and people with learning disabilities spending years detained in mental health units,’ Mr Hancock said.

Broken system

‘These vulnerable people are too often left alone, away from their families, friends and communities.

‘At its best, the health and care system provides excellent support to people, backed by a dedicated workforce.

‘But a small proportion of some of the most vulnerable in society are being failed by a broken system that doesn't work for them.’

Mr Hancock said the care of every patient in segregation or long-term seclusion will be reviewed by independent advocates. Government-funded specialists will work with families to move people into less restrictive care.

‘I hope this is a turning point so everyone receives the care they need,’ he said. 

Complex needs

The CQC was told of 62 people in segregation – 42 adults and 20 children, some as young as 11 – and visited 39 to assess their care.

Of these, 16 had been in segregation for more than a year, while one had spent more than a decade on such a ward and one child had spent 2.4 years, the report said.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Paul Lelliott said care in some cases ‘is simply not of an acceptable standard’, with staff poorly trained and unqualified to deal with the complex needs of the people they are responsible for.

The CQC will report its full findings next year.

Further information

Care Quality Commission (2019) Interim report. Review of Restraint, Prolonged Seclusion and Segregation for People with a Mental Health Problem, a Learning Disability or Autism

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