- Health minister admits being misinformed about timing of the publication of Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme’s first annual review
- Caroline Dinenage originally told MPs the DHSC was not told it was going to be published on 4 May
- But in a letter she admits she was “misinformed” and the DHSC was “informally notified” of its publication
The care minister has admitted misleading MPs over whether the Department of Health and Social Care was told a review into the deaths of people with learning disabilities was due to be published.
Caroline Dinenage has written to two Labour MPs admitting she was “misinformed” when responding to urgent questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday about the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme’s first annual review.
Worsley and Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley wanted to know why the report was published the day after the local elections and in the parliamentary recess before the bank holiday.
She said: “Why was a review of this importance published during recess, before a bank holiday weekend, in the middle of local election results, giving members little chance to scrutinise its findings?”
Heywood and Middleton MP Liz McInnes added: “The front page of the report is clearly dated December 2017. Can the minister therefore clarify and explain why, as she has stated today, her department did not have sight of the document prior to its publication?”
Ms Dinenage told MPs Bristol University – commissioned to prepare the report by NHS England – had not alerted her department to its publication.
She added: “This is an independent document, the University of Bristol decided when they were going to publish it. They published it on Friday without permission or any kind of communication with the Department of Health and Social Care.
“I don’t know what communication they had with NHS England but they certainly didn’t pass that information on to us.”
However, in a letter to the two MPs dated 9 May, seen by HSJ, Ms Dinenage said she was “misinformed” and the DHSC was “informally notified” of the report’s publication the day before it was released.
She wrote: “Following the urgent question I have since learned that I was misinformed.
“Firstly, after the urgent question, I was informed NHS England had discussed the timing of the publication and agreed the date with the University of Bristol. Secondly, I have also learned that the department was informally notified of the publication by NHS England on Thursday 3 May.
“It remains the case the department was not officially notified about the timing of the publication of this report, and it did not have any say in the timing of its publication.”
But a Bristol University spokeswoman said the institution had no say on when the reprot was published and had passed the report to NHS England in December.
She added: ”Contrary to what the minister has said, the University of Bristol had no say on when the report was published.”
The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Programme was commissioned in 2015, as part of the response to the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, a teenager with learning disabilities and epilepsy who drowned in a bath at a unit operated by Southern Health Foundation Trust in 2013 following a seizure.
The programme was notified of 1,311 deaths between July 2016 and November 2017, but by November had only completed and approved reviews of 103 of these – fewer than one in 10 –the report said.
Ms Keeley called this a “paltry” number. She said: “The report cites a lack of local capacity, inadequate training for people completing mortality reviews and staff not having enough time away from their duties in order to complete a review.
“If there are issues around capacity and training we would like to know what NHS England is doing to rectify this.”
Ms Keeley added today: “The minister’s correction… of her comments in the House of Commons does not alter the fact that NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care appear to have tried to bury the findings of the first report of the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review.
“There are also still serious questions for the government to answer around the timing and manner of this report’s publication and why the department was only ‘unofficially informed’ about it by NHS England.”
This story was updated on Friday, 11 May, to include the statement from Bristol University.