The UK Government has announced that every inpatient with a learning disability or autism in a mental health hospital is to have their case reviewed over the next 12 months.
Last week we reported that MPs and peers brought a report to light that highlighted the human rights of many young people in England with learning disabilities and autism where being breached in mental health hospitals.
New calls from the government to review the cases will see 2,250 inpatients of mental health hospitals with learning disability or autism have their care reviewed.
Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “Today’s announcements are important for making sure autistic people across England are properly understood and supported.
“Hundreds of families across the country will be relieved to see plans to review the care of people in inpatient units and new actions to tackle the disturbing use of seclusion.
“Importantly, the Secretary of State says he has asked for advice about changing the way mental health law applies to autistic people. Currently autistic people can be sectioned even if they don’t have a mental health problem.
“We believe this is wrong and, alongside autistic campaigner Alexis Quinn, delivered this message straight to Downing Street in August – with a petition signed by over 200,000 people.
“It is vital to make sure our law and how it applies to autistic people is fit for the 21st century. Whoever makes up our next government must make sure this promise is realised.”
As part of the review, the government has committed to providing each patient with a date for discharge – where this is not appropriate, a clear explanation of the decision will be presented alongside a plan to reintegrate the patient back into the community.
Similarly, patients who have been in long-term segregation will have their case reviewed by an independent panel, chaired by Baroness Sheila Hollins.
The panel will be dedicated to improving care and support to help patients get discharged into the community, with the panel set to feature independent experts to monitor, challenge and advise in case reviews.
“Too many doctors, nurses, social workers and other health and care professionals don’t properly understand autism,” continued Jane.
“Autistic children and adults end up at much greater risk of physical and mental health problems because of this lack of understanding.”
Furthermore, the government has announced greater transparency in this area going forward. Data on patients with learning disability and autism in mental health settings will be published, plus every NHS and social care workers will receive mandatory training relevant to their role.
The training is being backed by £1.4 million of government funding.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “I am determined to put this right and today we are committing to reviewing the care of every patient with learning disability and autism over the next 12 months – alongside a clear plan to get them discharged back into their homes and communities.
“I have also asked for advice on separating out the law regarding those with learning disabilities and autism from the law regarding mental health.”
Jane concluded: “Today’s commitment to train all health and care staff is a big step forward and is the result of tireless campaigning from people like Paula McGowan.
“To make any of these plans a reality, the next government must also invest in social care and community mental health services. Two in three autistic adults don’t have the support they need. Without it, autistic people can find themselves in a vicious cycle – forced to go into hospital because there’s no support and then unable to leave because there’s no support.”