In 2011, the BBC aired a documentary where they had secretly filmed systematic abuse of people with learning disabilities, in Winterbourne View. 11 care workers were subsequently sentenced and the trial revealed abuse including people in their care being forced to take medication, having their teeth knocked out, restrained, verbally abused and systematically humiliated.

Following what became known as the Winterbourne View scandal, in 2012 the government committed to ending people with learning disabilities being kept in hospitals, and

‘that everyone inappropriately being cared for in hospital will move to community-based support as quickly as possible, and no later than June 2014.’

In 2013, Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath in a hospital and the NHS Trust recorded that he died from natural causes. The inquest and subsequent investigation in 2015 identified that neglect had contributed to his death. It was known that Connor had autism and epilepsy and had been left in the bath unsupervised. He was 18 years old.

The government commissioned the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to look at the way NHS trusts review and investigate the deaths of patients in England. The CQC report ‘Learning, Candour and Accountability’ was published last year (2016) with one of the findings stating that:

‘Families and carers often have a poor experience of investigations and are not consistently treated with respect and sensitivity and honesty.’

The Dispatches programme ‘Under Lock and Key’ aired on Channel 4 last week and focused on a private hospital in Northampton where people with learning disabilities are housed, and has again raised concerns about the widespread use of restraint, deaths linked to use of sedatives, and people being kept in isolation with no access to natural daylight.

Central to all of these cases of abuse and neglect is where people are being made to live and how care and support is provided.

Keeping people with learning disabilities in hospitals institutionalises professionals and de-personalises people. It removes dignity, choice and control over the kind of support you receive, and in these cases has directly contributed to creating environments where people are left to drown in baths, or have their teeth knocked out by the people who have been trusted by their families to support their loved ones.

Five years ago, the government committed to ending long-stay hospitals and introduced the Care Act in 2014 which clearly supports person-centred approaches in health and social care.

Urgent investment is needed by the government to provide suitable local personalised housing, care and support. Urgent action is needed by NHS England to stop people with learning disabilities being housed in long-stay hospitals or inpatient units.

Leo, a mother of Stephen who has learning disabilities and has been housed in an in-patient unit for four years, is petitioning NHS England to stop keeping people in inpatient units.

Independent Lives supports the campaign #UnderLockandKey petitioning of NHS England – sign the petition now.

Enough is enough.