The NHS has announced that the number of hospital beds for people with learning disabilities and autism will be halved in England. This has arisen in response to the abuse scandal at Winterbourne View and will see more patients “live in homes, not hospitals”.
As part of the new plans the largest disability hospital, Calderstones, will be closed down. Some patients will be transferred to other facilities with others being cared for in their own homes. Calderstones has 233 beds and last year received heavy criticism from the CQC.
Ann Earley is the mother of Simon Tovey who was a victim of abuse at Winterbourne view. She advocates people with learning disabilities moving into community care as her son is now living in a bungalow with 24/7 care and is very happy there. Ms Earley said “There is absolutely no excuse for people being locked up in hospitals away from families. If you have a prison sentence, there is an end to it. There are people in dire circumstances, and families driven to the brink of despair trying to get people home, and it’s not acceptable in the 21st Century.”
The NHS has admitted that people with learning disabilities or autism have been let down for decades and it is high time to set things right.
Simon Stevens, the 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”
The new plans will require local councils and the NHS to work collaboratively. NHS England hopes to jump start the building of new community facilities with its £45m fund. However, campaigners have questioned whether the amount of funding for the new system is sufficient to ensure local authorities and health services can make the necessary changes.
Commenting on the announcement, Sir Stephen Bubb, the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations said, “I think there is a credible, practical plan being launched today and I welcome that. I think we are at a turning point and we will see the closure of institutions and the scale-up of community provision.”