NHS appoints national director of learning disability and autism

NHS England has today announced the appointment of Tom Cahill as the national director for learning disability and autism.
Tom Cahill, National Director for Learning Disability and Autism

Tom, who has been chief executive of Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust since 2009, will join NHS England to build on progress already made in providing people with a learning disability or autism with care in the community, rather than in inpatient settings.

Tom will also lead work set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to drive up standards across the health service and independent sector which provide inpatient care for people with a learning disability and/or autism.

The NHS expects all care providers to deliver high quality and safe care for patients that meets the national standards.

A former mental health nurse, Tom Cahill has worked in the NHS for over 30 years and under his leadership, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission.

The number of inpatients with a learning disability  has fallen by around a third since 2015, and with the establishment of integrated care systems, local NHS groups are now working with councils to drive this number down further.

NHS England and NHS Improvement will be undertaking a review, working with commissioners, of every single inpatient with a learning disability, autism or both in a mental health inpatient care setting to ensure that each person has a clear care and treatment plan and discharge date in place. If these are not in place, the review will explore why not.

Welcoming the appointment, NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch, said:

“The NHS is committed to improving the health of people with a learning disability and autism and I am delighted that Tom has joined us to push forward our plans to provide more care and treatment to people in the community and closer to home.

“As a former mental health nurse with significant leadership experience, Tom has a wealth of skills and knowledge which he will bring to the role to drive up standards across the NHS and independent sector so that all inpatients with a learning disability or autism receive safe and dignified care.”

Tom Cahill said:

“I am delighted to be taking up the role of National Learning Disability and Autism Director.

“I look forward to working with colleagues across health and social care to improve the experiences of people with a learning disability and autism to ensure they receive the care they deserve, either from the NHS or the independent sector, and as part of that I am keen to work closely with families and those who have lived experience of using these services.”

Tom will be stepping down from his role at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust at the end of November 2021 and will join NHS England and NHS Improvement in October 2021 on a part-time basis.

Earlier this year, the NHS appointed former Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield OBE to help transform the care of children and young people with a learning disability and autism. As the new independent chair of the Learning Disability and Autism Children and Young People’s Steering Group, Anne will champion the rights of children and young people to ensure they get the support they need at the right time.

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