Ten people with learning disabilities or autism died in secure hospitals in past year
Ten people with learning disabilities or autism have died in secure hospitals in the past year, according to figures obtained by Sky News.
This follows a previous investigation that showed 40 people had died in these specialist units between 2015 and 2018.
Michael and Christine Rowsell from Gosport are calling for action to address these failings after their son, Jason Thomson, died aged 43. He had been trapped in one of the secure hospitals for eight years.
On 31 December 2017, Jason, who had a learning disability and struggled to speak, stuck a small button battery up his nose. Despite informing the hospital staff at Cedar House in Kent, it took two days before he was sent for emergency treatment.
Jason died just over a week later because of complications after the surgery to remove the battery. His parents are calling for the health secretary to ensure better support for people with learning disabilities in the community.
Michael Rowsell told Sky News: "The number of deaths in care is appalling. If the government doesn't sit up and take notice then what are they being paid for?
"We on the ground can only highlight the problems.
"And if we don't highlight them then nothing will get done.
"I want to meet the health minister, have a face-to-face and get answers."
Jason was 22 when he left the family home near Portsmouth, wanting to become more independent. He went into the care of the local authority and his parents believe his mental and physical health started to deteriorate.
Mr Rowsell said: "We never had problems with him. This is what we can't understand. Most of his actions were learnt from other people. When he was with us he was lovely and no problem at all.
"It was a huge shock to see how he changed. What we couldn't do was bring him home as with all these learned behaviours we couldn't manage. We were there for him but nothing was working."
His parents said they raised concerns about his increased weight, his medication, and that he was depressed. They were ignored.
"I couldn't have screamed or shouted louder," Mr Rowsell said. "When you are talking to so-called professionals it was like talking to a brick wall – they know best."
A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council, which was in charge of Jason's community care, said: "We once again offer our sincerest condolences to Mr Thomson's family. When a person has complex mental health needs, finding the right support in the community can be challenging.
"We continue to work closely with our NHS partners to improve the help available across the county."
NHS representatives have met the Rowsells. A spokesman for NHS England said: "We can confirm that in all cases the appropriate processes have been followed to ensure local services make the necessary improvements to care."
There are currently 2,190 people with a learning disability or autism in secure units in England and more than 200 are under the age of 18.
People are supposed to be admitted to Assessment and Treatment Units, (ATUs) for nine to 18 months and government policy is to move them into community care.
But NHS figures show around 800 people have been held in these units for more than five years and 350 have stayed for 10 years or more.
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