The number of deaths of inpatients with learning disabilities has doubled in the last three years at Nottingham University Hospitals.
It comes just after an NHS government consultation proposed new training in February, including how learning disabilities and autism affect people and the skills and care needed by nurses to support them.
A Nottingham University Hospital (NUH) freedom of information request revealed there was a 50 percent increase in these deaths at its hospitals between April 2016 and April 2019, figures which rose from 23 to 48 deaths over the three years.
And although the request did not outline circumstances surrounding the deaths, it stated one case was reported on NUH’s reporting system as “avoidable”.
It added all deaths are recorded on their incident reporting system, meaning the patients may have had an incident in their care and subsequently died – rather than the deaths being completely avoidable.
There are currently over 1.2 million people in England who have a learning disability with 600,000 of those also living with autism – facts the NHS says it will use in its training plan to “improve its understanding of the needs of people with learning disabilities… to improve their health and wellbeing”.
The NHS’ new training plan was prompted by the death of 18-year-old Oliver McGowan, who was admitted to Southmead hospital in Bristol in 2016 after a having an epileptic seizure and subsequently given medication against his parents’ consent that worsened his condition.
As well as epilepsy, Oliver had cerebral palsy and autism and in response to the seizure and medication prescribed, he suffered severe brain injuries from which he did not recover.
However, now, the NHS has commissioned a new investigation into his death.
Responding to the deaths at Nottingham University Hospitals was Mencap, a Notts-based charity devoted to keeping those with learning disabilities safe.
A Mencap spokesperson said: “We know the treatment of people with a learning disability in hospital is still not good enough in many parts of the country. This has to change. 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably every year.
“Our campaign, Treat me well, calls on NHS staff to make reasonable adjustments for people with a learning disability which can help to save lives.”
The NHS’ research also identified that, despite people with learning disabilities having greater ill-health generally, that the group often faces “health inequalities” in comparison to the rest of England.
And in 2017, a third of deaths of people with learning disabilities were due to respiratory conditions and 18 percent due to circulatory system diseases, according to the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme.
Nottingham University Hospitals declined to comment on these figures.