NHS Digital publishes data on people in inpatient units

  • At least 2,085 people with a learning disability and/or autism remain in inpatient units as charities warn they are at even greater risk during coronavirus crisis – up from 2,060 last month 

  • 225 children with a learning disability and/or autism remain in inpatient units – up by 25 from 200 last month 

  • People with a learning disability and/or autismremain in inpatient units during lockdown – 125 admissions in June 2020 

  • Delayed discharges continue with at least 125 people still stuck in hospital when they are ready for discharge in June 2020 

  • The average total length of stay in inpatient units is 5.6 years. 

  • 3,330 recorded instances of restrictive interventions (like physical, prone, mechanical and chemical restraint) being usedin April 2020, of which 805 were against children.This is likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg” as only data for2 out of 15 private/independent providers and 23 out of 56 NHS providers. 

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

“The data published today shows that there continues to be a high number of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities in inpatients units when they should be supported properly in the community. It is well established that inpatient units, particularly large segregated institutions, put children and adults with learning disabilities and/ or autistic people at greater risk of restraint, over-medication, seclusion and abuse.  However, despite repeated words of commitment to transform care, and instead of addressing this by focussing on and promoting the development of effective community support, the government have just agreed to a brand new 40 bedded inpatient unit, on a remote site, next to a secure hospital.  This is in direct opposition to the Transforming Care programme which aims to reduce the number of inpatient beds and develop suitable community support for people with learning disabilities.  The government needs to show clear leadership and immediately ensure that any plans to increase inpatient provision using outdated large, remote, congregate models are halted, and co-ordinate with Health, Education and Social Care to ensure the rights of children and adults with learning disabilities to receive support and services to meet their needs in the community are upheld.” 


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

“We have long been warning that lockdown must not mean more people being locked up. Yet today’s data shows another worrying increase in the number of children and adults with a learning disability and/or autism locked away in these modern-day asylums. In these units, people are at greater risk of abuse and neglect, and we saw the use of restrictive interventions against children soar during lockdown.  

While the Government has previously announced funding to enhance support in the community to help avoid admissions and increase discharges, this month a new £33m unit in a remote location for 40 people with a learning disability and/or autism was approved. The Government should not be investing more money into the wrong type of care. What we urgently need is ​delivery of the cross-government strategy to drive forward the change required to truly transform social care.” 


Sharon, mother of Ryan who is currently being held in an inpatient unit, said: 

“At 31 years old, my son Ryan – who has autism – has lived in 11 to 12 different care settings over the last 14 years. An independent case review for Ryan’s case, following Matt Hancock’s promise, has finally taken place and flagged multiple urgent concerns. This included Ryan being over-medicated, his basic human rights not being upheld, and a discharge plan not being pursued, despite discharge being agreed two and a half years ago. Deadlines for many of the actions have already passed and I’m left wondering what is the point of these reviews if nothing is being acted on?   

Ryan, who has never committed a crime, is currently being held in a medium secure forensic unit alongside ex-offenders and has been in long-term segregation for over three years. We need to see change now. Ryan – and the thousands of others – deserve so much more.” 



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