Headlines: March 24th, 2009

The Parliamentary and Health Service and Local Government Ombudsmen have said there are “serious questions” about how well equipped the NHS and councils are to plan for and provide services for people with learning disabilities.

In a report presented to Parliament today, Ann Abraham and Jerry White say that the NHS and social care organisations must “urgently review” the effectiveness of their systems for understanding need and planning services, and the capacity of existing services to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities.

The report, titled Six Lives, sets out the results of investigations made following complaints by Mencap on behalf of families of six people with learning disabilities who died in NHS or council care. In total, complaints were made about 20 public organisations, including the Healthcare Commission, 16 NHS bodies and three councils. Not all were upheld.

However, the report says that there were “some significant and distressing failures in service across both health and social care”, with some organisations failing “to live up to human rights principles”. The ombudsmen also conclude that at least one death resulted from “service failure and maladministration”.

The report has three recommendations: that NHS and councils review their own systems and services within 12 months; that the new Care Quality Commission (CQC) should confirm that its regulation and monitoring regime can effectively assure that health and social care organisations are meeting statutory and regulatory requirements; and that the Department of Health should support that work and provide a progress report in 18 months.

The CQC has already responded to the report. Commission Chairman Barbara Young, welcomed it, saying: “CQC will be looking to ensure that the new system of regulation for health and adult social care provides effective assurance on the quality of care.”