Scots autism patients see UN human rights being ‘seriously compromised’

Stock image. The mental health watchdog is calling on the Scottish Government to end delayed hospital discharge for people with autism.
Stock image. The mental health watchdog is calling on the Scottish Government to end delayed hospital discharge for people with autism.
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The mental health watchdog is calling on the Scottish Government to end delayed hospital discharge for people with autism because it “seriously compromises” their human rights according to UN conventions.

A report published today by the Mental Welfare Commission makes 10 recommendations, including action to reduce the use of psychotropic medication and restraint, and the appointment of a dedicated co-ordinator for people with autism and complex needs.

The commission is calling for a two-year initiative to ensure people who do not need hospital care are offered community provision within six months.

It noted that long periods in hospital as a result of complexities of funding or different approaches by health and social care services “seriously compromises the human right of these adults to a life in the community, as enshrined in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

Commission visitors met 54 people living in hospital or in the community across Scotland, and spoke to medical and care staff with family members and carers. Thirteen of the 28 people living in hospital were ready to leave but were on delayed discharge, waiting for suitable accommodation.

The commission said it was not possible in some wards for changes to be made to the environment that would suit the particular needs of the patients.

Of the 54 people reviewed, 47 were prescribed psychotropic medications, and 26 of these cases involved psychotropic medication for challenging behaviour.

Colin McKay, the commission’s chief executive, said: “Getting it right takes time and can be expensive. But we found that getting it wrong, and failing to design services around the individual, could be even more expensive.

“On the use of psychotropic medication and restraint to manage behaviours, while we cannot say in individual cases it was unjustified, we are nevertheless very concerned by the scale of its use, and we are asking the Scottish Patient Safety Programme to work with the NHS to reduce this.

“We are also disappointed that we have again found very long delays in discharging autistic people from hospital to community settings.”

The Scottish Government said: “The commission expects responses to this report’s recommendations within three months of the date of report. It is ministers’ expectation that all recommendations made will be addressed in full.”