Hundreds of people with learning disabilities ‘trapped in hospitals’

Hundreds of children and adults with learning disabilities remain “trapped” in hospitals far from home after an NHS target was missed, a charity has said.

At least 2,260 adults and children with a learning disability and/or autism are in inpatient units across England, March data from NHS Digital shows.

In 2015, the Government pledged to move between 35% and 50% of people with learning disabilities and/or autism out of inpatient units and into the community by March this year.

NHS England said it had achieved a reduction of 22%, from 2,890 inpatients in 2015.

“Today’s data confirms that the programme has ‘officially’ not delivered the promises made to people with a learning disability and their families by NHS England and their partners in 2015,” said Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap.

“Hundreds of people with a learning disability who should have today been living in the community are still trapped in inpatient settings because of this.

“At the moment when people with a learning disability and/or autism reach a crisis point, they end up being admitted to inpatient units, which are completely unsuitable environments for them to be in for long periods.

“Hospitals are not homes, and we know whilst they are there, they can be subjected to physical restraint, over-medication and being kept in isolation.”

Mr Scorer said a lack of specialist care and support in some areas means people can end up “locked away” often “hundreds of miles” from home.

“This is a domestic human rights scandal,” he said.

A new deadline in the NHS long-term plan says that by March next year a reduction of 35% should be achieved

An NHS England spokesman said: “The NHS is committed to supporting people with a learning disability or autism. Since 2015 the number of people in hospital has reduced by more than a fifth, including over 650 people who had been in hospital for over five years, but who are now being supported in their communities.

“With parts of the country hitting ambitious targets and progress picking up pace over the last year, the NHS long-term plan will build on that momentum, investing in earlier intervention and ramping up specialist community care, to help hundreds more people live more independently and closer to home.”

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