Thursday, 10 December 2015

More Rights, Less Harm

I spoke this morning on BBC local radio about the shocking report into the Southern Health NHS Trust.

A report, leaked to the BBC, details a significant failure on the part of Southern Health to meet their obligations. There was a systematic failure to investigate the deaths of people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. In deed, only one per cent of cases where individuals with learning disabilities died unexpectedly were investigated. This is an unacceptable state of affairs. On Human Rights Day, we have found out about a major breach of the rights of some of societies most vulnerable.

This is what I said this morning. I also said that this underlines what I have been saying since I wrote my first report around Winterbourne View. People must be able to challenge the system in which they exist. To do otherwise is to deny them their basic human rights. This change must be made in legislation. The government’s recent Green Paper made little movement on this issue. Today shows that we need action now – not at some point in the future.

But we need more than the legislation. People need support if they are to challenge the system. Alongside a change in the law, we need to see a cultural shift in the health service.

We should not be fooled into thinking this was one poorly performing NHS trust. I was glad to hear Jeremy Hunt this morning treating this as a systemic issue. It is not limited to a few hospitals, or trusts. Instead, a lack of agency blights our treatment of people with learning disabilities. These people are too often forgotten or ignored. What must happen now is that they are restored to their rights.

What is important now, however, is that we make sure they never happen again. We need to learn from Southern Health, and change our health system for the better. I have been calling for change for nearly a year. Others have been doing so for far longer. Today shows that the time for this is now.

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