Leading physician heads inquiry into learning disabilities treatment

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Sir Jonathan Michael, former chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, will chair the independent inquiry into access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities.

The inquiry follows charity Mencap’s report Death by Indifference published in March into the deaths of six people with learning disabilities.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, announced that Sir Michael would lead the inquiry, joined by other panel members including Professor Sheila Hollins, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Professor John Moxham, medical director at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Chris Davies, consultant in social care/lead advisor at the Social Services Improvement Agency, Wales.

The inquiry will focus on the action needed to ensure adults and children with learning disabilities receive appropriate treatment, primarily in general acute health care and with reference to wider health services.

It will also aim to learn lessons from the six cases highlighted by the Mencap report.

The inquiry team has been tasked with reviewing existing national and international research on the issue and will take into account evidence and findings from the Disability Rights Commission Formal Investigation into Health Inequalities for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems.

Once completed, the team will make recommendations and report these to the health secretary.

Ms Hewitt said: “I am delighted that Sir Jonathan is taking on this important work. I am confident that he will carry out a rigorous investigation of the issues raised and make recommendations for any changes which need to be made.”

Health Service Ombudsman for England, Ann Abraham, will be carrying out her own independent investigation of the cases, running parallel to the independent inquiry.

Sir Jonathan said: “I look forward to working with both service users and providers to examine current practice and recent experience, highlight what lessons the NHS could learn and to identify where practice should be improved.”

Sir Jonathan was chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ until the end of April and was responsible for the development of what is now one of the largest kidney units in the UK in Birmingham. He was also chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust.

He was awarded his Knighthood in 2005 in recognition of his lifetime commitment to the NHS and is now deputy managing director [healthcare] for BT Health, part of BT Global Services.
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