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Safety concerns over hospital care of adults with learning disabilities

Liz Blamire

14th November 2023

On the 1st October 2023 a new organisation was established called the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB). It describes itself as 'a fully independent arm’s length body of the Department of Health and Social Care' and it has responsibility for investigating safety concerns in both the NHS and independent/private healthcare providers.

One of their first reports is intended to improve the care of treatment of adults with learning disabilities receiving inpatient care in hospital.

Investigation report: Caring for adults with a learning disability in acute hospitals

What did they investigate?

The HSSIB decided to investigate two areas:

  • the sharing of information about people with a learning disability and their reasonable adjustment needs following admission to an acute hospital
  • how ward-based staff are supported to deliver person-centred care to people with a learning disability.

What did they find?

  • Health care services are not well designed for adults with learning disabilities (LDs)
  • Staff often lack training and experience of LDs
  • Staff lack confidence in assessing mental capacity and knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • There is no standard model or national guidance for an acute learning disability liaison service (i.e. teams that are specifically trained in caring for people with a learning disability)
  • Mechanisms for sharing information about needs, preferences and required adaptations for people with LDs are patchy so staff often rely on family members
  • Health inequities for adults with LDs persist

You can read a summary of the findings and the associated recommendations here: Caring for adults with learning disabilities in acute hospitals

Liz Blamire

Liz is the current tutor2u subject lead for Health and Social Care. She is a former NHS midwife, who has worked in community, birth centre and acute hospital settings. Liz is an SSAT Accredited Lead Practitioner, who has taught Health and Social Care in FE and secondary schools, where she was a successful HOD. Liz is an experienced senior examiner and author.

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