Friday, November 27, 2020

Tories face legal action over ‘failing’ patients with learning disabilities and autism

Health Secretary given just 14 days to respond to a threat of legal action by the equalities watchdog.

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The UK Government is facing potential legal action over what the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) desribes as a “repeated failure to move people with learning disabilities and autism into appropriate accommodation”.

The Secretary of State For Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, has been given days to respond to concerns about more than 2,000 people with learning disabilities and autism who are being detained in secure hospitals, often far away from home and for many years.

The EHRC has sent a pre-action letter to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), warning that the Government is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and threaning legal action unless immediate action is taken.

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Concerns have been hightened following the BBC’s exposure of the brutality and imhumane treatment experienced by patients’ at Whorlton Hall, where patients suffered both physical and psychological abuse.

Targets set in the Transforming Careprogram and Building the Right Support program have not been met, the EHRC says. These targets include moving patients from inappropriate inpatient care to a community-based settings, and reducing the reliance on inpatient care for people with learning disabilities and autism.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We cannot afford to miss more deadlines. We cannot afford any more Winterbourne Views or Whorlton Halls.

“We cannot afford to risk further abuse being inflicted on even a single more person at the distressing and horrific levels we have seen. We need the DHSC to act now.

“These are people who deserve our support and compassion, not abuse and brutality. 

“Inhumane and degrading treatment in place of adequate healthcare cannot be the hallmark of our society. One scandal should have been one too many.”

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The DHSC has been given just 14 days to respond to the letter from EHRC, who have also offered to suspend legal action for three months if the department agrees to produce a timetabled action plan detailing how it will address the concerns raised in the letter.

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