Wednesday, 21 January 2009

NHS starts inquiry into deaths of patients with learning difficulties

An official investigation is to examine why people with serious learning difficulties have died while under NHS care, after alleged neglect led to at least six fatalities, ministers will reveal today.

The health secretary, Alan Johnson, is setting up an inquiry which will look at whether the quality of treatment that doctors, nurses and other health service staff gave to such vulnerable patients contributed to their dying unnecessarily early.

Johnson will announce the formation of a confidential inquiry, a form of investigation used in healthcare to see if there are any common links between deaths in similar patients or circumstances.

"Things that happened in the past in the NHS weren't acceptable. We want to look back at cases where people have died prematurely and learn the lessons of those deaths," said a senior Whitehall source involved in setting up the inquiry.

The move is part of an overhaul of how the NHS treats those with learning difficulties after a government-commissioned independent inquiry last July uncovered evidence of serious failings in care. Led by Sir Jonathan Michael, it followed the publication of a report in 2007 by the charity Mencap, called Death by Indifference. It accused the NHS of "institutional discrimination" against such people and highlighted six individuals who it claimed died after their health needs were ignored by NHS staff as a direct result of their learning difficulties.

Other measures being unveiled today include improved training for all NHS staff; annual health checks for anyone with a mental disability, funded by an extra £20m a year into family doctors' contracts; and personal health action plans for them.
I've highlighted a few buzzwords for you, just to get the ball rolling.

Source: The Guardian

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