Mencap report draws attention to continued failings in NHS care for people with learning disabilities


In 2007, Mencap published ‘Death by Indifference’, which chronicled failings in health care that led to the deaths of 6 people with learning disabilities. Following a review by the Health Ombudsman, the Department of Health published evidence that hospitals were failing to provide proper healthcare to people with a learning disability.

This new report, five years on, looks at what progress has been made in that time.  The authors identify some positive steps taken in the NHS, but they conclude that many health professionals are still failing to provide adequate care to people with a learning disability.

The report highlights the deaths of 74 people with a learning disability in NHS care over the last ten years which Mencap believes are the result of institutional discrimination. The authors draw attention to common errors continuing to be made, including

  • failure to abide by disability discrimination law
  • ignoring advice from families
  • failing to meet basic care needs.

Mark Goldring, Mencap chief executive, said:

The report confirms that five years on from our landmark ‘Death by indifference’ report, many parts of the NHS still do not understand how to treat people with a learning disability.”

You can download the full report here, along with an easy read version.
Death by indifference: 74 deaths and counting

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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