NHS Digital data shows increase in number of individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism in inpatient units in July 2020

  • The number of people with a learning disability and/or autism in inpatient units has increased – at least 2,100 people in July 2020 up from 2,085 last month.
  • The number of recorded instances of restrictive interventions used against children, young people and adults is high– 5,520 in May 2020 – an increase of over 2,000 from the previous month.  
  • 225 children with a learning disability and/or autism remain in inpatient units  
  • There has been little change in the number of admissions with 120 admissions in July 2020 
  • Delayed discharges continue with at least 115 people stuck in hospital when they were ready for discharge in July 2020 
  • The average total length of stay in inpatient units is 5.6 years.  


Vivien Cooper OBE, CEO of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: 

Eight years ago a Serious Case Review (SCR) into Winterbourne View Hospital (see SCR here) highlighted that the provision of care for people with learning disabilities was inadequate and a number of  key changes in care and support were needed to meet people’s needs effectively and appropriately.  Eight years on data published today shows that there continue to be a high number of children, young people and adults in inpatient units -  2,100 children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and/ or autism were in inpatient units in July 2020, including 225 individuals under the age of 18.   

The Serious Case Review into Winterbourne View made a number of recommendations including the adoption of the principle of investing in and promoting good quality, local services…providing intensive community support with only limited use of inpatient services (Department of Health 2012).  

Despite such recommendations and the ongoing campaigning of people with learning disabilities and/or autism, families and organisations, children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and/ or autism continue to spend too long in inpatient units, often experiencing restrictive interventions. Today’s data shows in May 2020 there were 5,520 incidents of restrictive intervention, an increase of over 2,000 from April. This includes 845 incidents of restrictive intervention experienced by children and young people under 18.  

Investment in and promotion of good quality local services for children and adults with learning disabilities and autism has been insufficient. It is essential the government urgently acts to deliver appropriate timely support in the community for individuals with learning disabilities and/ or autism.   As always, it is the individuals and their families who live with the significant impact of the failure to provide the right support in the right place at the right time. 


Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said:  

“People with a learning disability and/or autism shouldn’t be locked up in modern day asylums in the first place, let alone subject to horrifying levels of physical restraint, over-medication and solitary confinement. Yet commissioners and NHS England continue to pay for people to be locked away where they are at greater risk of abuse and neglect.  

“Lockdown has been disastrous for the Transforming Care programme. The social care system has buckled under pressure of the coronavirus crisis, leaving people at crisis point because they cannot get support they desperately need. Now we are out of national lockdown, we need the Government to urgently plug the funding gap to stabilise the social care sector and develop the vital local support services people need, as well as deliver the cross-government strategy to drive forward the change required to truly transform social care.” 

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