New plans will see the closure of the last NHS hospital for people with learning disabilities in England. We round up responses from the social care sector
Up to half of the 2,600 hospital beds for people with learning disabilities in England will close under new plans to move care into the community.
The modernisation plans will see the closure of some units altogether, including the last remaining NHS hospital for people with learning disabilities in England,Calderstones near Clitheroe, Lancashire. They will be replaced by supported housing schemes.
This is the latest step taken by the Transforming Care programme, set up in 2012 in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal, when a BBC Panorama programme showed staff at the private hospital in Gloucestershire abusing patients with learning disabilities.
The plan, from NHS England and council leaders, will set up local partnerships to decide how the plans will be implemented. Money will come from pooled local NHS and council budgets, as well as a £45m NHS England fund. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “As good and necessary as some inpatient care can be, people with learning disabilities are clear they want to live in homes, not hospitals.
We’ve seen some progress over the last few years, but now is the moment to grasp the nettle and build the excellent community-based support that will allow people to move out of hospitals.”
Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, who will oversee the programme’s delivery, said: “Society has failed this group of people for decades. Now is the time to put things right and with this far-reaching plan I am confident that we can finally make quick, significant and lasting improvements to their lives.”
Responses from the sector
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and vice-chair of the Transforming Care delivery board: “Adass welcomes this clear and ambitious national plan and is committed to ensuring that people with learning disabilities are supported to lead meaningful, independent lives in their local community wherever possible. This is already the case in many parts of the country: it can and must be done everywhere else.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, community wellbeing spokeswoman, Local Government Association: “Councils want people with learning disabilities to have access to the right care and support they need in the right place, at the right time. Local authorities and the NHS have been working hard to make progress in providing this, but we also know that there is still more to be done.
Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society: “Following the abuse uncovered at Winterbourne View, the government and NHS have been working to move people out of inappropriate in-patient units. But this has not happened fast enough.
“We therefore welcome this promising plan which provides guidance to local areas on how to develop suitable community provision that should enable up to 50% of inpatient beds in England to close in the next three years. We are also encouraged that NHS England has made £45m available to support this transition.
“Now, it’s for local authorities and the NHS in each of these areas to come together to put these plans into action.”
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations: “There have been so many broken promises. So many reports. People with learning disabilities have been badly let down by the system. When I have spoken to people with learning disabilities who have been incarcerated in institutions for years I’m appalled at the way they have been treated. That is why I welcome today’s closure programme. That’s why I welcome the plan to scale up community provision. In my view it’s a step change. High time some will say, but I’m confident it is now going to happen.”
Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group: “The transforming care programme has been protracted to say the very least. The welcome announcement of assessment and treatment unit closures needs to go hand in hand with the development of high quality community services – no ifs and no buts. Community providers can ensure support is personalised to reflect preferences, aspirations and choices.”
Rob Greig, chief executive of the National Development Team for Inclusion: “This is the most cogent set of actions in response to the issues behind the Winterbourne View abuse since it took place over four years ago. The objective should be to develop good community supports from new, skilled social care providers. Just having closing assessment and treatment beds as a target could lead to poor support being transferred into a community setting. There is still very little focus on changing policy and practice around children and young people – which we know is where services start getting things wrong.”
Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England: “The knowledge, skills and commitment within the provider sector will form a vital element of the delivery programme for transforming care. We look forward to working in partnership with people with learning disabilities, their families, carers and statutory sector partners to ensure high quality care is available in local communities.”
Alicia Wood, chief executive of the Housing & Support Alliance: “We are committed to good quality housing and support that gives people with learning disabilities real control over what happens in their lives. Our experience consistently shows us that when we get this right for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour, it can transform their lives.”
Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious about Autism: “It is important that people with learning difficulties and autism are treated with respect and supported to live in their own community and make choices about their own futures. In order to achieve this, sufficient resources must be in place to develop the individual support required for each person.”