Winterbourne View pledge 'fundamentally flawed', says RCN general secretary

RCN general secretary Peter Carter says recommendation to move thousands of people with learning disabilities out of residential care was 'fundamentally flawed'

A government pledge to move thousands of people with learning disabilities out of residential care after the Winterbourne View scandal was 'fundamentally flawed' , according to RCN general secretary Peter Carter.

Addressing mental health and learning disability nurses at a conference in Manchester, Dr Carter said he thought it had been 'naive' to think that thousands of patients could be moved into the community within a couple of years. Ministers said in 2012 that people with learning disabilities who would be better off in the community would be transferred out of instutionalised care by June 2014. The pledge followed a 2011 BBC TV Panorama programme exposing the abuse of patients at Winterbourne View, a residential hospital near Bristol. 

Dr Carter's comments follow the publication of a Commons public accounts committee report this week that criticised the government for failing to achieve the target.

 'It was naive to think that within such a short period of time we could move people from a residential setting to independent living and now we have health minister Norman Lamb being ridiculed for failing on a recommendation that should never have been made in the first place,' added Dr Carter. 'I think it was an inappropriate objective. I depart from the government line because people with a learning disability often thrive much better in small communities where they are living in companionship with like-minded people.'

England's chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, who was also speaking at the conference, said it was important that people with learning disabilities were given a voice. 'I do not think the recommendation that came out of Winterbourne View was fundamentally flawed, but the way in which it has been implemented over the past few years has been flawed and we have acknowledged that,' she said. 'The vast majority of people want to be cared for in a place they want to call home but it is simplistic just to say that everybody in an inpatient setting needs to be discharged. It is about what each individual needs and wants and not about what we think they need.'

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has pledged to close all inappropriate residential care homes over the next two years as part of a drive to improve the care of people with learning disabilities.

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