Free Our People Campaign update

The Free Our People Campaign has been very busy trying to get disabled people with learning difficulties and autistic people out of hospitals during the covid-19 outbreak.

You can read our update below or download it here: Free Our People Campaign update – EasyRead (pdf)

The Free Our People Campaign has been very busy trying to get disabled people with learning difficulties and autistic people out of hospitals during the covid-19 outbreak.

We are going to use inpatients to mean people who are on a hospital order.   

We found hospitals have:   

  • Used lockdown rules to stop inpatients from going into the community for simple things like having a walk or to visit family.
  • Used lockdown rules to stop inpatients from having face-to-face assessments and visiting their new homes.
  • Stopped inpatients from leaving the ward because staff are fearful of covid-19 spreading from one person to another.   
  • Stopped doing activities that will help some inpatients keep well.   
  • Used more drugs to control inpatients ‘bad’ feelings about being locked down.    

We have asked lawyers to help plan court cases to challenge hospitals that are not supporting inpatients to have the same freedoms that many of us have under lockdown rules.

The good news is that one of the inpatients I have been supporting is now living in her own home with support.  They are no longer on a hospital or community treatment order.   

Hospitals do not always want to go to court – so it is worth having a go to make sure that inpatients can leave the hospital once and for all.     

There are some important changes on how inpatients on hospital orders or on a community treatment order can be treated during the covid-19 outbreak.

Inpatients being put on a mental health act hospital or a community treatment order using video assessments    

National Health Service England (NHSE) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) guidance says that the courts will decide if and when Mental Health Professionals can carry out video assessments for making hospital and community treatment orders.   

Devon Partnership NHS Trust v SSHC court case about video assessments  

Devon NHS trust asked the court to make the law clear if and when video assessments can be used for a Mental Health Act hospital and Community Treatment Orders.    

The court judge gave some very helpful advice:

  • The Mental Health Act makes it clear that doctors must have a face-to-face assessment with the inpatient when making hospital and Community Treatment Orders during the coronavirus paramedic.   This includes new assessments for, and review of, hospital and Community Treatment Orders.
  • The courts have said that video cannot replace the face-to-face assessments.   However, video and face-to-face assessments can be used to inform an inpatient’s hospital or community treatment order decision.   

It is worth asking lawyers to challenge a hospital or community treatment order if an inpatient had no face-to-face assessments.  For many disabled people, particularly those with autism and learning difficulties they prefer to meet people face-to-face.

Stay at Home Rules

Hospitals are not allowed to have blanket policies including stopping community leave for all inpatients during the covid-19 outbreak.    During lockdown inpatients can still be allowed out in the community, often to take exercise or do shopping.

During lockdown inpatients can sometimes leave the hospital for a good reason such as visiting family and friends.      

NG v Hertfordshire CC & Others court case about disabled people leaving a 24 hour care placement that covers supported living and could include hospitals.     

This court case involved an autistic person with learning difficulty getting 24-hour local authority funded care in their own home. The care provider wanted to stop family providing care.

The court judge gave some very helpful advice:

  • a ban on family members being able to provide care to loved ones for any reason would be a breach of ECHR Article 8 – right to privacy and family life.
  • The Autistic person with learning difficulty emotional needs and best interests can be met by having a mix of family and paid care.      

Lawyers have argued that the hospital should not stop all home visits as family members provide emotional support that promotes inpatient’s wellbeing.

Also it would be good to know whether the NG court case also covers leave for patients to visit their friends and chosen advocates as they can provide necessary care and support.

If a hospital has stopped you or any other inpatients, from visiting family it is worth contacting a lawyer.

Inpatients having a support bubble

Inpatients on hospital order cannot form a support bubble with another household.   This means that inpatients on a hospital order cannot visit family and friends in the same way as many other people can do so.

We need inpatients to challenge the support bubble rules because it’s wrong and discriminates against disabled people from visiting others, family and friends.    

Contact Simone Aspis simone@changingperspectives.org.uk

Mental Health Act reforms consultation

Free Our People Campaign will be responding to the Government’s Mental Health Act reform consultation proposals.   We will also be working with other disabled peoples lead groups such as Covid-19 Support & Action Group and Liberation.