Too many people with learning disabilities and autism are having their human rights infringed according to a damning new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
A review of the use of restraint, seclusion and segregation found abuses such as people in mental health hospitals with no access to fresh air and, in some cases, no access to toilets.
The CQC found the length of time people spent in long-term segregation ranged from three days to 13 years. A lack of suitable care in the community prevented discharge for 60% of the people inspectors saw.
The report, ‘Out of sight – who cares?’, recommends the appointment of a named national specialist commissioner for complex care. This individual could ensure people’s care is reviewed every three months and see that care “is in line with human rights.”
It also calls for a single government minister to take charge of ensuring improvements are made.
Inspectors noted that mental health hospitals can be particularly distressing for people with learning disabilities and autism.
Their report found that overall people in community-based services were experiencing more person-centred care and a better quality of life than those with similar needs who were in a hospital.
Dr Kevin Cleary, CQC Deputy Chief Inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said he and his colleagues had seen too many examples where people were subject to unnecessary restrictions.
“During our review we saw people receiving poor care in unsuitable noisy and chaotic ward environments, undoubtedly causing them distress… Where we saw poor care or risks to people’s rights in our review we took action.”
He added that people had often ended up in hospital as they did not have the right support early on in the community when they and their families needed it.
“We found that once in hospital people were often not receiving specialist treatment and care and there was often nothing in place to support them to leave hospital.
“There is no excuse for this.”
The CQC is calling for fundamental change in the way care is planned funded, delivered and monitored for people with a learning disability, autistic people and people with mental health conditions.
The report also recommends a contractual requirement on providers to inform commissioners and the NHS England regional team when segregation or seclusion begins in hospitals.