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Report calls for shake-up of care for patients with learning disabilities

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An independent report has demanded action on care for patients with learning disabilities, in the wake of the abuse found at the Winterbourne View home.

NHS England has today published a report, which it commissioned into the future care of people with learning disabilities. 

The report was written by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

“We urge immediate action, to close all Winterbourne-style institutions and ramp up community provision”

Stepehn Bubb

He was asked by NHS England to make recommendations for the development of a national commissioning framework to address “serious shortcomings” in the provision of support for people with learning disabilities.

Sir Stephen’s report – titled Winterbourne View - Time for Change – makes a series of recommendations for the NHS, local government, regulators and the government, that include a robust NHS commissioning framework to support people with learning disabilities and autism move out of hospitals and into the community.

The report sets out 10 recommendations that include the introduction of a “charter of rights” for people with learning disabilities and/or autism and giving people with learning disabilities and their families a “right to challenge” decisions and the right to request a personal budget.

In addition, the report recommends a requirement for local decision-makers to follow a mandatory framework that sets out who is responsible, for which services and how they will be held to account, including improved data collection and publication.

It also called for a planned closure programme of inappropriate institutional in-patient facilities supporting patient choice, improved training and education for NHS, local government and provider staff, and the founding of a social investment fund to build capacity in community-based services.

ACEVO

Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen said: “The Winterbourne View scandal shocked the nation. People are still angry and frustrated that more people with learning disabilities are being placed in institutional care than moved into the community.

“We urge immediate action, to close all Winterbourne-style institutions and ramp up community provision,” he said.

“We need a new charter of rights to empower people with learning disabilities and their families, and give them the right to challenge the system. We need that system to have the courage to act on these recommendations, and not to promise another false dawn,” said Sir Stephen.

“The time for talk is over. It’s time for people with learning disabilities or autism and their families to be put first,” he added.

 In response, Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: “We asked Sir Stephen to tell us how the NHS can better plan and fund care, treatment and support for people with learning disabilities and autism.  He’s done that. 

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England

Jane Cummings

“This report asks every part of the system to respond,” she said. “We are committed to playing a full and active role in the implementation of the recommendations and call on others to do the same.”

NHS England admitted that progress to date has been slow, but it noted that had introduced the publication of quarterly data to track progress on transferring people to community settings.

“The horrors of Winterbourne View exposed serious failures in the care of people with learning disabilities and autism”

Norman Lamb

In addition, it highlighted that all local NHS leaders must now have a register of inpatients with learning disabilities and autism to inform local plans, and NHS England was undertaking a programme of care and treatment reviews.  It said it expected about 1,000 reviews to have taken place by the end of the year.  

Care and support minister Norman Lamb said he welcomed “the thrust” of the report.

“The horrors of Winterbourne View exposed serious failures in the care of people with learning disabilities and autism and this report makes clear commissioning needs to change radically if services are to improve,” he said.

“I am going to consult on changing the law to speed up delivery of the Winterbourne View commitments – to see people living in the community wherever possible and able to challenge decisions about their care,” he added.

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