Seven years after Winterbourne View and five years since the avoidable death of Connor Sparrowhawk, the findings of the review show a much worse picture than previous reports about the early deaths of people with learning disabilities. One in eight of the deaths reviewed showed that there had been abuse, neglect, delays in treatment or gaps in care. Women with a learning disability are dying 29 years younger than the general population, and men with a learning disability are dying 23 years younger. Some 28% of the deaths reviewed had occurred before the age of 50, compared with just 5% of the general population who had died by that age.
The Secretary of State announced to the House in December 2016 that he would ask the review for annual reports on its findings, so why was a review of this importance published during the recess, before a bank holiday weekend in the middle of local election results, giving Members little chance to scrutinise its findings? When asked about the report on the “Today” programme on Radio 4, Connor Sparrowhawk’s mother, Dr Sara Ryan, said that she was
“absolutely disgusted by the report” and that the way it had been published at the beginning of a bank holiday weekend
“shows the disrespect and disregard” there is for the scandalous position of people with learning disabilities shown in the report.
Only 103 of 1,300 cases passed for review between July 2016 and November 2017 have been reviewed. That is a paltry number. The report cites a lack of local capacity, inadequate training for people completing mortality reviews and staff not having enough time away from their duties to complete a review.
If there are issues around capacity and training, what is NHS England doing to rectify this? Sir Stephen Bubb, who wrote the review into abuse at Winterbourne View, said this in response to the report:
“there can be no community more abused and neglected than people with learning disabilities and their families. How many more deaths before we tackle this injustice?”
Dr Sara Ryan said:
“things have actually got worse than they were 10 years ago”.
What action will the Government take to show the families of people with learning disabilities that their relatives’ lives do count?