15 Scots with learning disabilities and autism in hospital for more than 20 years

Fifteen Scots with learning disabilities and autism have been living in hospital for more than 20 years, it has been revealed.

An investigation by BBC Scotland Disclosure found that more than two decades after Scottish ministers said everyone should be living independently in the community, dozens of patients have been stuck for years behind locked doors in psychiatric wards and units.

Disclosure: Locked in the Hospital, which airs on BBC One Scotland at 8pm tonight, found one person with a learning disability has been living in hospital for more than 25 years and another has been recorded as a “delayed discharge” – cleared for release to the community – for more than eight years.

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Responses to Freedom of Information requests revealed at least 40 people have been in hospital for more than ten years and at least 128 for more than a year.

Carstairs State HospitalCarstairs State Hospital
Carstairs State Hospital

The Scottish Government said the findings were unacceptable and local services must do more to get people into their own homes.

It is investing £20 million and has pledged to get most people out by March 2024.

The BBC investigation found that nine people with autism and learning disabilities are currently in the high security State Hospital at Carstairs – despite not having been convicted of a crime before they went in – including one man who has been in for more than 17 years.

Carstairs said it provides a safe and therapeutic environment for patients and that some people take a long time to respond to treatment.

It is the only maximum security hospital in Scotland, holding those who have committed particularly violent crimes.

Scottish ministers published The Same As You? Report in 2000, which established the right for everyone with a learning disability to live in their own homes and communities.

Dr Anne Macdonald, the Scottish Government adviser on learning disabilities, told the BBC: “It might be possible that viewers would think that maybe people with complex support needs need to be in hospital, or that that’s the best place for them.

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“And in actual fact, that’s not the case… It’s absolutely not acceptable that people are living in hospital when there’s no clinical reason for them to be there.

“People with learning disabilities shouldn’t be living in hospital. A hospital is not a home, and it’s a human rights issue to have a home and to be able to have a connection with your family... There should be an element of urgency about it.

"We shouldn’t just be accepting it as status quo. We need to be working harder on this, and doing better.”

She said she was shocked by the revelation that one patient has been held in hospital for 25 years, describing it as “an awful statistic”.

Kevin Stewart, the SNP minister for mental health and social care, said he is planning a new bill to help tackle the problem and will appoint a commissioner to oversee progress.

He has already pledged to get most people home by March 2024. A national register is being created because some people have been “lost” in the system.

Asked about people being held in hospitals for decades, he told the BBC: “That situation is unacceptable. I’m determined that we do much better here.”



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