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(UK) "More than 2,000 patients with autism...facing long stays" in the hospital

Feb 6, 2024, Birmingham Live: Scandal of 360 people with special needs stuck in hospital for more than a decade

A lack of urgency, complicated services and funding were some of the factors behind long stays for those with learning disabilities and autism in hospital settings

More than 300 people with special needs have been stuck in hospitals for more than a decade amid claims of a 'lack of urgency, complicated services and funding' issues across the country. They are among more than 2,000 patients with autism and learning disabilities facing long stays in medical settings.

The challenges they face trying to leave hospital have been revealed in a new in-depth report published this morning, Tuesday, February 6, following research by the University of Birmingham. The final ‘Why are we stuck in hospital?’ report included interviews with people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people in hospital, their families and front-line staff to investigate things that would help more people leave hospital.

Their lived experience and practice knowledge was shared with researchers and informed a suite of accessible training materials and a good practice guide that could help more people leave hospital. There are currently 2,035 people with learning disabilities and/or autistic people in hospital at any one time.

Over half have had a total length of stay of over two years, including 360 people who have been in hospital for more than a decade. There were 2,035 learning disabilities and/or autism inpatients across NHS England Commissioning regions from data collected at the end of November last year. Of these, 1,935 have been receiving care from the start of that month. The Midlands accounts for the highest proportion of learning disabilities inpatients with 21 percent of the total. The biggest age group are those aged 25 to 34 - standing at 30 percent of inpatients.

Barriers to leaving hospital identified by the research include: a lack of urgency from everyone involved, complicated services and funding, and a failure to plan support after hospital around the needs of individuals. While people, families and staff were all frustrated with the situation, many felt helpless to bring about any positive change.

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). Jon Glasby, Professor of Health and Social Care at the University of Birmingham, who led the project said: “We’ve known about these issues for more than a decade. Just last week we saw the sentencing of four carers convicted of abusing patients at Whorlton Hall, and yet progress continues to be painfully slow.

"Deep down we can’t help but think that if this was happening in any other similar healthcare setting, more immediate action would have been taken. Our research not only identifies the barriers keeping people trapped but also offers a way forward, drawing on the expertise of people in hospital, families and staff.”

Jayne Leeson MBE, chief executive at disability rights campaign group Changing Our Lives, said: “The injustice of people being needlessly kept in long-stay settings for such lengthy periods of time is one of the biggest health and social care scandals of our time. Being stuck in hospital is more often than not down to failures across the whole health and social care system.

"Getting people out of these hospitals and into their own homes is one of the priorities of Changing Our Lives, and being a partner in this research is one of the ways we can bring this issue to the attention of policy makers and practitioners alike.”


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