Psychiatric wards ‘last resort’ for disabled people with challenging behaviour

Local authorities should provide specialist community care for people with learning disabilities whose behaviour can be challenging in order to avoid admissions to psychiatric wards or residential homes, new guidance says.

Estimates suggest there are 1.2 million people with a learning disability in England, and between 10-17% of those have behaviour that is harmful to themselves or other people.

New draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that councils and NHS bodies should only admit people to psychiatric wards or residential homes as a last resort.

These institutions should also be as close as possible to the patients home, according to the proposed guidance.

‘Our draft guideline recognises that some people with learning disabilities and behaviour that challenges are not receiving the care they deserve,’ Jonathan Senker, chief executive of VoiceAbility and chair of the guideline committee.

‘Good, specialist support in the community is often lacking and this can make life for people and their families extremely difficult.

‘They can find themselves in a crisis and admitted to hospital as an inpatient. We want services to provide better support in the community to break this disruptive pattern of care.’

The draft guidance — out for consultation until 20 November — recommends that a specialist lead commissioner is appointed by councils to make sure the right support is available.

It also suggests a ‘named worker’ from the community learning disability team be made responsible for coordinating someone’s care.


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