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Learning disability inpatient beds to be reduced by 50% in three years


National plans to close inpatient facilities for people with learning disabilities and move care into the community will see hospital beds reduced by an average of 50% over the next three years, NHS England has revealed.

The timetable for closure, published today, will also see the last remaining standalone learning disability hospital trust in England closed by 2018.

In addition, the specialist 223-bed hospital – run by Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – will be taken over by Merseycare NHS Trust from July, with plans to re-allocate around 40% of beds to other units and also boost community provision.

“With this far-reaching plan I am confident that we can finally make quick, significant and lasting improvements to lives”

Jane Cummings

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, welcomed today’s plans.

He chaired an independent review into learning disability services last year following the care abuse scandal at Winterbourne View home uncovered in 2011.

Sir Stephen said despite the slow progress made so far – and the fact the health service had missed its original deadline to close learning disability institutions by June – the planned closure of Calderstones was a “clear indication of the will to change”.

In today’s report on the national roll out of bed closures – called Building the right support: A national implementation plan to develop community services and close inpatient facilities – NHS England said service changes needed to both re-settle long-stay patients in the community and also prevent new admissions by providing alterative support.

The body said it would introduce “dowries” for long-stay patients – for whom hospital has become a “permanent home” – that are able to transfer into the community.

From April, NHS organisations will pay the dowry to local authorities for those who have spent five years or more in inpatient facilities – around a third of the 2,600 people currently in hospital.


Stephen Bubb

Assessment of these people – through newly-introduced “care and treatment reviews” – had already identified transfer or discharge dates over the next three years for around 40% of the group, said the report.

The plans also include investment in advocacy services, ensuring local housing has access to on-site support staff, and a “rapid and ambitious expansion” of the use of personal budgets to enable people to plan their own care.

To implement the proposals and ensure budgets are pooled, £45m will be given to 49 new collaborations between clinical commissioning groups, local authorities and specialised NHS England commissioners – called “transforming care partnerships” .

Earlier this year, NHS England confirmed it would begin its closure programme in Midlands and East, and North regions of England over the summer, where most beds were located.

In reports published today, the body said the £10m fast-track programme in six areas – Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and the North East, Nottinghamshire, Hertfordshire and the Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire region – were “making a difference on the ground now”.

“Councils are facing continued financial pressures… it is vital the government properly funds the changes needed in the social care system”

Izzi Seccombe

A range of initiatives are being introduced in these areas, supported by NHS England, the Local Government Authority and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

These initiatives include new housing schemes with 24-hour care, staff training programmes and increased investment in new crisis intervention strategies.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England and chair of the transforming care delivery board, 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,” she said. 

The Local Government Authority welcomed the plans and said it was “fully committed” to supporting them, but also warned of the financial constraints faced by councils.

“At a time when councils are facing continued financial pressures, it is vital that the government properly funds the changes needed in the social care system so that people who need support get the vital help that they deserve,” said LGA community wellbeing spokeswoman Izzi Seccombe.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Question. Why can't some of these patients return to their families?

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  • When care in the community was first introduced it was reported that many people with learning disability simply disappeared off the register.

    They are a highly vulnerable group. This must never be allowed to happen again.

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  • Good point, why can't they go home to their families?

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