Assessment and Treatment Units: Vulnerable People

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:19 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 1:19 pm, 6th November 2018

Hon. Members will be very aware of and concerned about the report published this week by University College London. As the hon. Lady said, the report, which was commissioned by the NHS, draws attention to how people with learning disabilities die on average 15 to 20 years sooner than the general population, often for reasons that are not an inevitable consequence of any underlying medical condition. I was reassured that this report shows that programmes and opportunities that Government are putting in place to improve outcomes for people with learning disabilities and autism are addressing some of the concerns. However, I share very strongly her views and the views of this report that there is still much further to go and that now is the time to take action.

As hon. Members will know, the LeDeR report—the learning disabilities mortality review—is looking into the deaths of all people with a learning disability. It published its second annual report in May and in their response in September the Government accepted all the recommendations and included detailed actions for implementing them. NHS England has also committed that the long-term plan for the NHS will include learning disability and autism as one of the four clinical priorities. The long-term plan will also set out the future of the transforming care programme, which the hon. Lady raised.

Government policy on restrictive practices, including seclusion, is to reduce their use. Where such interventions have to be used, they must be a last resort and the intervention should always be represented as the least restrictive option to meet immediate needs. Incidents of restrictive intervention are recorded in the mental health services dataset and this data is published. The Mental Health Act code of practice highlights the particularly adverse impact of seclusion on children and young people. It advises careful assessment and periodic reviews.

I want to turn to the Care Quality Commission review into the inappropriate use of prolonged seclusion and long-term segregation. The first stage of the review will focus on settings that relate most closely to Bethany’s circumstances, focusing on people of all ages receiving care on NHS and independent sector wards for people with learning disabilities and/or autism and on child and adolescent mental health wards. That will start immediately and this stage will report in May next year. It is very important that service users, their families and people with lived experience are able to contribute to that. The second stage will report in the winter and will examine other settings in which segregation and prolonged seclusion are used. That stage will include NHS and independent sector mental health rehabilitation wards and low secure mental health wards for people of all ages, as well as residential care homes designated for the care of people with learning difficulties and/or autism. As I have said, individuals who have been subject to segregation and/or long-term seclusion and their families and carers will be invited to provide evidence, including through interviews. The Care Quality Commission will make recommendations at the end of both stages, which will seek to eliminate system-wide inappropriate use of prolonged seclusion and long-term segregation, and ensure that vulnerable adults and children supported by health and social care are accorded the best possible care.

I should point out that not all the numbers that the hon. Lady spoke about are in separately identified assessment and treatment units. The data reports there being 2,315 in-patients with a learning disability and/or autism in mental health in-patient settings as of September, but some 360 of them were in in-patient settings described as for people with acute learning disabilities

It is important that commissioners should be able to access very high-quality, value-for-money care in their local area, whichever organisation provides it. We recognise the concern that people have expressed about what happens in the transforming care process, but I see it very much as a process and not as an event that will continue. The NHS has transferred more than £50 million to ensure that the right care is put in place in respect of community support, so that people are better cared for when they are out in the community.