More than half of inpatients with learning disabilities who were resident in specialist hospital units in 2013 in England were still there a year later, the latest Learning Disability Census has revealed.
The second annual Learning Disability Census Report, compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, found that 1,830 of the 3,250 inpatients counted in 2013 were still resident in 2014.
Overall, on September 30, 2014, 3,230 individuals were in inpatient units, a slight decline on the 3,250 who were included in the 2013 headcount. Of those, 79% (2,545 patients) were not considered ready for discharge.
The most common reason reported by providers (for 1,365 individuals or 42%) was a continuing need for inpatient care due to mental illness. The second most cited reason was that inpatients were receiving a continuing behavioural treatment programme (695 or 21%) and third that the individual’s current behaviour was assessed as too risky for the Ministry of Justice to agree any reduction in security level (485 or 15%).
Also, 2,310 patients (72%) were recorded to have behaviour that presented a risk of violence or threats of violence to others. However, the number of patients who experienced one or more incident – such as self-harm, accident, physical assault, restraint or seclusion – dropped slightly. In 2014, 1,780 patients (55%) had one or more incidents reported in the three months prior to census day, compared to 1,875 (58%) in 2013.
The median average length of stay for inpatients increased slightly in 2014 to 547 days from 542 days in 2013.
Likewise, many people with learning disabilities are still being sent many miles from their home and community. The median average distance from home in 2014 was 34.4 km, compared to 34.5km in 2013.
Worryingly, the use of antipsychotic medication had increased in the past year. On census day in 2014, 2,345 patients (73%) received antipsychotic medication either regularly or ‘as and when needed’ in the 28 days prior to the census collection, compared to 2,220 patients (68%) in 2013.
The Learning Disability Census was initiated in response to events at Winterbourne View. It considers inpatients with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and/or behaviour that challenges, giving information about their characteristics and their experiences of care in NHS and independent facilities in England.
In response, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Viv Cooper, chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: “The Learning Disability Census shows that things are not getting any better despite over two years’ worth of work on this area. The commitments made in ’Transforming Care for People with Learning Disabilities – Next Steps’ need to bring about urgent change on the ground to convince people with a learning disability and their families that this failure is not just going to be repeated.“