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£62 million investment aims to accelerate discharge of people with learning disabilities

Local councils in England set to receive government funding – but RCN questions whether it is sufficient to meet community’s needs
Image of a woman with learning disabilities who is living in the community

Local councils in England will receive 62 million of government funding to accelerate discharge of people with learning disabilities and/or autism from mental health hospitals but RCN questions if it is sufficient to meet communitys needs

The government has announced 62million in funding to accelerate the discharge of people with learning disabilities and/or autism from mental health hospitals into the community.

Latest figures from NHS Digital showed at the end of June, 2,085 learning disabilities and/or autism inpatients were in hospitals in England .

Of those in hospital at the end of June, 1,250 (60%) had a total length of

Local councils in England will receive £62 million of government funding to accelerate discharge of people with learning disabilities and/or autism from mental health hospitals – but RCN questions if it is sufficient to meet community’s needs

 iStock
Funding for local councils in England can be spent on community teams, accommodation and staff training Picture: iStock

The government has announced £62million in funding to accelerate the discharge of people with learning disabilities and/or autism from mental health hospitals into the community.

Latest figures from NHS Digital showed at the end of June, 2,085 learning disabilities and/or autism inpatients were in hospitals in England.

Of those in hospital at the end of June, 1,250 (60%) had a total length of stay of more than two years. 

The government has said the funding, which will be given to local councils in England, can be spent establishing community teams, accommodation and staff training. 

Aim is to reduce long-term hospital stays for people with learning disabilities and/or autism

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock called for a renewed focus to ensure prompt discharge into the community.

It is not the first government attempt to reduce long-term hospital stays for people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

In 2015 NHS England launched the Transforming Care programme to support patients with learning disabilities and/or autism move out of long-stay hospitals and into the community.

But the programme ended in March 2019, with its target to reduce inpatient bed capacity by 50% unmet.

Baroness Sheila Hollins (right) with a service user
Baroness Sheila Hollins (right) with a service user

Last year Mr Hancock asked Baroness Sheila Hollins, who is emiritus professor of psychiatriatry for learning disability at St George’s, University of London, to oversee independent case reviews for patients with learning disabilities and/or autism who were identified as being in long-term segregation. 

Baroness Hollins has appointed an oversight panel, which will examine findings from the reviews and develop recommendations for the government.

RCN questions whether latest round of government funding is sufficient

However, RCN learning disability nursing forum chair, chief enablement officer and nurse consultant Jonathan Beebee questioned whether the latest round of funding would be enough.

‘Local authorities are facing huge financial pressures as a result of the coronavirus, and I expect that social care will be affected by this in the year ahead,’ he said.

‘I have been supporting people to be discharged from secure hospitals for the past five years and it is a complex process.’

Mr Beebee called for more evidence about the value and input of learning disability nurses working in social care settings because the care they provided is ‘higher quality and less restrictive’.

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Related material

NHS Digital – Learning Disability Services Monthly Statistics (AT: June 2020, MHSDS: April 2020 Final)


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