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Learning disability ward closures to begin in two regions

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Widespread plans to close inpatient facilities for people with learning disabilities will be implemented in the Midlands and East, and North regions of England in the coming months before being rolled out to other parts of the country, according to NHS England board papers.

Proposals for a closure programme of institutions deemed inappropriate were put forward last year in an independent report following the abuse scandal at the Winterbourne View home, which was uncovered in a TV documentary in 2011.

The report, chaired by Sir Stephen Bubb – chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations – called for “immediate action” to “close all Winterbourne-style institutions and ramp up community provision” so that people can be cared for closer to home.

“The care and treatment review programme has underlined weaknesses in community care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism”

NHS England

In NHS England board papers due to be discussed later this week, a report by chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings said the planned closures would initially be concentrated in certain areas, because this was where the majority – around 78% – of beds were in use.

Therefore, it would “have the highest impact on reducing beds overall”, she said.

Following the first phase, plans will be developed by early autumn 2015 to expand the programme across England, she added.

In her report to the board, Ms Cummings – who is the senior responsible officer for the NHS Learning Disability Programme – said that more than 1,400 reviews had been carried out so far to assess whether existing learning disability patients needed to be in hospital.

As a result of these newly introduced “care and treatment reviews”, 30% of patients – 650 in total – who were in hospital on 1 April 2014 have now been discharged into the community, with around 13% having been moved to more suitable inpatient settings, she added.

Jane Cummings

Jane Cummings

NHS England has set itself a target of discharging 50% of this cohort of patients by September.

However, the board report revealed that the review process has also highlighted problems that are stopping patients from being discharged.

These include a lack of appropriate clinical skills in the community to support patient discharge, a failure to agree on a future plan for the patient and the lack of a suitable care provider.

“The care and treatment review programme has underlined weaknesses in community care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, which contribute both to admissions to hospital and delayed discharges,” stated the report.

To address the issue, Ms Cummings re-stated NHS England’s plan to develop a new service model that will provide a national framework describing the range of support and services people with learning disabilities and their carers can expect.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is all too little too late. Whilst Stephen Bubb held breakfast meetings to discuss the issue young adults were dying in these places. Winterbourne View was just the tip of the iceberg and as Bubb ate his breakfasts more young people were being removed from community and family and being incarcerated hundreds of miles from their families and support networks.

    Almost daily we hear of cases where families are fighting to get their loved ones home - obstacles are repeqatedly put in their way.

    At every opportunity officialdom tries to remove more people from their homes and place them in these institutions, where their rights are ignored and they are abused an neglected.

    It is not restricted to those with learning difficulties - those with severe physical disabilities are also targeted.

    Residential care is seen by private companies as an easy source of profit, they charge huge amounts and what they provide in return can not be seen as care. Those incarcerated in these places are seen as cash cows.

    Connor Sparrowhawk, Thomas Rawnsley et al have paid the price for this madness.

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