Thank you to those who contacted me about MENCAP's campaign on inpatient units for people with learning disabilities and autism.
I absolutely agree that patient safety and care for those with autism and learning disabilities should be to the highest standard and I am deeply concerned at the abuse that patients in Winterbourne and other hospitals faced.
Since 2015, the number of people in inpatient care has reduced by almost a fifth, which is welcome progress. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out key changes to inpatient units for those with learning disabilities and autism.
This includes a commitment to reducing the number of admissions and decreasing the amount of time spent in these units by 2024. I was pleased to see the renewed commitment in the Autism Strategy (published in 2021) to achieve these targets in the Long Term Plan.
This will enable more people to receive personalised care in the community, closer to home, and reduce preventable admissions to inpatient services.
I fully share your concern that people with an autism diagnosis are still being admitted to these units, and the Autism Strategy committed to improving the identification and diagnosis of autism when patients are admitted into inpatient care.
Changes will be brought forward to the Mental Health Act which would mean that autistic people are only admitted to inpatient mental health settings if absolutely necessary.
These changes would mean that autism alone is no longer a lawful basis for ongoing detention in inpatient care and would enable people in inpatient care to be discharged as soon as they are well enough to leave.
I am aware that my ministerial colleagues intend to bring forward a new Mental Health Bill when parliamentary time allows which I will follow closely.