Learning disability charity Mencap has called a Parliamentary and Heath Service Ombudsman report a ‘missed opportunity’ to properly enforce disability law.

The ‘Report on complaints about disability issues’ explains the Ombudsman’s role in considering complaints about poor service and unfair treatment provided to people with disabilities. It sets out the Ombudsman’s approach to considering complaints and shows, through a series of real case studies, what the Ombudsman can achieve for individuals. It also states the role of the Ombudsman is not to pass judgement on matters of disability discrimination law or to determine whether the law has been breached. The Ombudsman adds that this is a matter for the courts.

David Congdon, Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy, said: “We believe the Ombudsman has an important role in ensuring that health professionals respect the rights of people with a learning disability. This was a missed opportunity to send a clear message to all health professionals that poor standards of care for people with a learning disability will not be tolerated within the health service. “Since Mencap’s ‘Death by Indifference’ report was published a lot of positive steps have been taken within the health service. However if health professionals are not challenged to make reasonable adjustments and to stop discriminating against people with a learning disability, poor care and treatment and avoidable deaths will continue unchecked. “It is for this reason that Mencap has taken the unprecedented step of challenging the ombudsman’s approach via judicial review.”

The ‘Report on complaints about disability issues’ follows the ‘Six Lives’ report published two years ago by the Ombudsman. Six Lives in turn responded to Mencap’s 2007 ‘Death by Indifference’ report, which detailed the deaths of six people with a learning disability that Mencap believes died needlessly while in NHS care.