According to the report by the Healthcare Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection there was "widespread institutional abuse of 200 people with learning disabilities living at a treatment centre in Falmouth and in 46 houses around Cornwall". Some of the abuse described in this report is horrific but sadly in my personal experience (I was until recently a director of West Berkshire Mencap) these are not isolated incidents.
The NHS in other parts of the country has very real problems in dealing with people with learning disabilities. These problems may not be on the same scale as the proactive abuse described in the report but the impact of not doing something can be almost as devastating.
In Reading a cancer patient with a learning disability was left in severe pain for days on end because the staff at the hospital could not work out how to deal with her or communicate with her.
In Dartford a patient was repeatedly denied the physiotherapy which she needed because she had autism. The same patient ended up staying in hospital for the best part of three months whilst Social Services and the Health Authority argued over who was to provide funding for aspects of her treatment. By the time she was discharged she could no longer walk and indeed still cannot walk - all because she did not get the treatment she needed when she needed it. This cannot be a cost effective way of dealing with someone. Never mind the basic considerations of treating someone with respect and dignity and the long term implications for this persons quality of life!
My impression is that it is all too difficult for some medical practitioners. Don't get me wrong there are clearly some very good doctors and nurses out there as well but in a lot of areas there is significant work to be done if the NHS is deliver an equitable service to all its patients. Education and training will have a role to play as will the nominated advocates who are supposed to be in place at each Hospital. However, what is needed more than anything else is a sea change in attitudes so that those with Learning Disabilities are treated with the respect and dignity that any other member of the community would expect.
Congratulations are due to the local Mencap for getting a proper investigation into the problems in Cornwall.
The rest of the NHS across the country will need to have long hard look at itself and start treating people with learning disabilities with some respect especially as according to the BBC article "Checks will now be carried out on all services in England."