Partnerships between NHS and councils to be set up to transform care of learning disability patients

A national plan aims to see care for more people with learning disabilities delivered in community services rather than hospitals. 

Partnerships between local councils and NHS bodies will be set up to accelerate the shift in caring for people with learning disabilities from inpatient units to community-based services, it has been announced today.

NHS England is making a £45 million fund available to 49 partnerships to aid the transition over the next three years through provision of more community services. 

The government pledged to transfer people with learning disabilities out of unsuitable inpatient units following the Winterbourne View scandal. The BBC’s Panorama programme exposed abuse of patients at the Bristol residential hospital in 2011, which led to its closure.

But a report by Sir Stephen Bubb published last year showed that admissions to inpatient care were outnumbering discharges by around 40% in 2013/14.  

The national implementation plan, published today by NHS England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, also pledges to set out national guidelines which describe the best examples of services. 

The Transforming Care partnerships will have to agree plans by next April and then deliver them over the next three years.

NHS England predicts that in areas that have relied on inpatient settings at more than average levels, the number of beds that will be commissioned could be reduced by up to 70%. 

England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, who is chair of the Transforming Care delivery board, said: ‘Society has failed this group of people for decades. 

‘Now is the time to put things right, and with this far-reaching plan I am confident that we can finally make quick, significant and lasting improvements to their lives.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies welcomed the plan but said the ‘pace of change’ had been slow so far.

She added: ‘Delivering this ambitious plan requires focus and having the right resources and workforce in place. Learning disability nurses are key. 

‘These learning disability nurses have the knowledge, skills and ability to work with people, families and services to co-ordinate and deliver person-centred care in both hospitals and in the community.’


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