Learning disability patient care fails following Winterbourne View scandal


An initiative by Government to move disabled people out of institutions being managed in the Winterbourne View-style has not succeeded.

It is now six months since the deadline to transfer thousands of patients suffering with learning disabilities out of private hospitals which were unsuitable, and still the number of patients being admitted to these units is way above the number being transferred.

An official report into the response to the care scandal states that doctors remain reluctant to move patients because of the fear that they will not receive proper care in community support care.

However, the report, which was drafted for the NHS by the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, demands that all institutions such as Winterbourne View should be shut down as soon as possible.

It has also called for an expansion in local care facilities for those with mental health issues, new patient and family rights to challenge decisions about where care will be received and a single set of rules related to admissions.

Sir Stephen said the time to discuss the matter is past its deadline and people with autism or learning disabilities and their families should be put first.

The care minister, Norman Lamb, has indicated that he is giving consideration to a change in the law which will introduce a presumption that these people will be cared for in their homes or in the community.

The scandal about Winterbourne View private hospital in Bristol erupted during 2011 during a BBC Panorama undercover documentary, which exposed the humiliation and abuse residents were suffering from the staff.

The result of the programme was that 11 staff members were criminally convicted and the resultant review placed emphasis on the fact that patients are at greater risk of neglect and abuse if they are placed far away from their families and residing in units which are intended for short stays only.

A deadline was set for all patients in this situation to be reviewed and those who would be more suitable for community care to be moved out of the institutions by June 1, 2014. However, this target was missed and only 923 people have been transferred out of inpatient units during the past year, while 1306 new patients were admitted.

The report stated that doctors are keen to move patients out of inpatient units, but have concerns about the level of care they will receive in the community.

The Chief Nursing Officer for England, Jane Cummings, said she has experienced frustration and anger from families over the length of time it is taking to shift patients. She said that if it was an easy task, it would have happened by now.

Ms Cummings insisted that the closure of all these centres may not be the best solution.

The chief executive at Mencap, Jan Tregelles, said it has not been almost four years since the Winterbourne View episode and there have been many reports, strategies and countless meetings since then, but very little has improved and families are still in the midst of battles to try and get their loved ones back to the community.

Image Credit: DFID


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