Many peers in the House of Lords believe a specialist body should handle the commissioning of services for people with learning disabilities and other complex needs – going against government proposals.

The poll of 100 peers, conducted by ComRes on behalf of Care Principles, a specialist provider of services for adults with learning disabilities, revealed that 68% of peers agreed this was required to ensure the needs of people with learning disabilities are met. Only 12% said commissioning should be done at a local level, as proposed by the government in the Health and Social Care Bill.

Dr Claire Royston, medical director of Care Principles, has similar views to the Lords and, in her submission to the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, she advocated the need for a specialist NHS commissioning body with specialist psychiatric advisers. “With the proposal of such reforms to the provision of care, it is imperative that this vulnerable group are not forgotten and that they receive the care and treatment they require,” Royston said. “A specialist NHS commissioning body would bring together those responsible for commissioning services with those tasked with service delivery.”

In addition, the survey found that 80% of peers surveyed believe specialist psychiatrists should assess offenders with learning disabilities on their admission to prison to determine if their needs would be better met with specialist treatment in a specialist facility.

Royston made a similar recommendation in her submission to the Health and Social Care Bill Select Committee. She added: “There are an estimated 5,800 prisoners with a learning disability and I’m confident that most of these have not been assessed to determine if specialist treatment to address both learning disability and offending behaviour would be more appropriate. “Research suggests a tailor-made personalised and specialist care is the most effective treatment for their rehabilitation and it is encouraging to see so many Peers in supporting this view. “A specialist commissioning body would not only deliver significant therapeutic benefits to the individual but would also benefit society as a whole. This is because effective treatment reduces the likelihood of reoffending and the burden of harm – and associated multiple costs – to any future victims.”