People with a learning disability are still not being treated equally in healthcare or criminal justice settings in Scotland, according to two investigations.

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland conducted investigations into the care of two people, known only as Mr EF and Mr S, and found that both had not received the same treatment as they would have done if they did not have a learning disability.

Mr EF was known to have a learning disability and also had a form of heart disease. Mr EF became unwell following a dental procedure that could have affected his heart. Sadly, Mr EF later died of his illness. 

The Commission felt that communication between key healthcare professionals was not good and when Mr EF became unwell the doctors were not informed of the dental treatment. This meant they did not carry out specific tests that could have found the damage earlier. 

Since this incident, the health board has made changes to try and ensure that another situation such as Mr EF’s does not arise in the future.

Meanwhile, Mr S’ problems came with the criminal justice system. He first came to the attention of the criminal justice system in 2009 when he accrued several charges for public disturbances. Over a one-year period, Mr S was reported to the police on about 130 occasions because of his behaviour at a local supermarket.

As a result, Mr S was remanded to prison in June 2011. At the time he had been supported in the community by health and social care services. In July 2011, the sheriff presiding over Mr S' case contacted the Commission to relay his concerns that Mr S was again being remanded to prison instead of being admitted to hospital. He was clear that, in his view, prison was inappropriate.

Following the contact from the sheriff, we took immediate action to bring this matter to the attention of the local authority and NHS Board.

As a result, Mr S was remanded to hospital at the earliest possible opportunity in order that he could receive necessary care and treatment. This resulted in good care and rehabilitation. He was given community accommodation in a different area and, at the time of writing, has a good quality of life and has not reoffended.

Again, the health board and local authority in question have made changes to ensure better communication between them so such a situation does not arise again.

In a blog, Chris Creegan, chief executive of the Scottish Commission for Learning Disabilities, said: “Both reports underline the critical importance of effective joint working between statutory agencies including the NHS, local authorities and those in the criminal justice system. Where agencies cannot or do not agree, the consequences for some of the most vulnerable people in our society can be appalling.”

Creegan added that both reports threw into sharp relief the need for appropriate care and treatment. “Sadly, they underline the fact that it quite simply doesn’t always happen,” he wrote. “The reports demonstrate that poor coordination, lack of information sharing and a failure to work together can have a profound effect on people with learning disabilities.”