The NHS has been accused of allowing six people to die because of "institutional discrimination" against people with learning disabilities.
Disability charity Mencap made the accusation in a report published today, which alleges people with learning difficulties "get worse healthcare
than non-disabled people".
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt said she was "shocked" to hear the findings, and announced there would be an independent inquiry into the issue.
"It is obvious that while parts of NHS delivers excellent care to people with learning disabilities, there are other areas that do not reach this necessary standard," she said.
"This is why I am setting up an independent inquiry to ensure we learn the lessons from this and that the NHS and others take all the necessary steps to ensure people with learning disabilities get the quality of care they need."
The report gives six examples of people who it believes died because of the attitude of health care professionals to those with mental handicaps.
In one case a 43-year-old man called Martin was not fed for 26 days after he had suffered a stroke in hospital.
Mencap alleges that this left him too weak to undergo surgery, contributing to his death on December 21st 2005.
"We are deeply disturbed that. people with a learning disability continue to receive worse healthcare than those without a disability," said Jo Williams, Mencap's chief executive.
"Despite government recognition of the inequalities experienced by people with a learning disability within NHS care, there has been no commitment to tackle them.
"It is an outrage that the solutions to this problem have long been recognised, and yet action has not been taken."