The author of Winterbourne View – Time for Change has given a reserved welcome to the progress being made in the implementation of the recommendations in the report.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of charity leaders’ organization ACEVO, accepts that there is much to commend in the approach taken so far by NHS England and its partners. But he adds that there is an alarming absence of any tangible progress on the ground. While the NHS has finally accepted the need to close Winterbourne-style institutions they can’t do that unless there are sufficient community facilities primed and ready to go to.
Six months after the report was delivered Sir Stephen celebrates the Care Act and the Department of Health Green Paper on the rights of people with learning disabilities and/or autism. And he welcomes the commitment made by Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, to publish a full transition programme in the autumn.
Despite this pledge, however, there currently appears to be no dialogue between NHS England and those on whom they will rely, such as third sector providers, to help deliver the transition. It is unacceptable to wait months more before this dialogue commences.
It is essential that there is evidence that preparation is being made now for what needs to be physically in place and the nuts and bolts of who will look after, and enable, whom and how. The longer the conversation and preparation is confined within the central and local government enclave the longer vulnerable individuals and their families will suffer.
Sir Stephen Bubb has every confidence in Simon Stevens’ commitment to reform but it is not Sir Stephen who needs that confidence – it is the thousands of vulnerable people and their relatives who remain sceptical about the process and who ask themselves: “So what will happen when my institution closes. Where will I go, what will I do? How will I cope?”
Questions, says Sir Stephen, to which there are no answers, nor can there be until the conversation and preparation moves outside the Governmental perimeter. That this has not yet happened is just not good enough. Sir Stephen is therefore proposing that an independent Transitions Taskforce is created to act in tandem with Transforming Care to provide the essential bridge between Government and the third sector. Sir Stephen’s prime concern six months on is that while the commitment to reform has been dressed up in the finest words there still is no sign of where the vulnerable will be going.
Sir Stephen says: “The core recommendation of my report was the need to close these institutions as quickly as possible and you can’t close them until there is good strong community provision – people with learning disabilities and their families deserve action now. There’s huge scepticism that anything will happen – NHS England needs to prove them wrong. And until I see action on the ground I will continue to hold Government to account. Additionally, I’m calling on the government to bring forward legislation now to enshrine in law the right to challenge for people with learning disabilities.”
See media coverage of the report here.
For interviews with Sir Stephen please contact Simon Long-Price on 0207 280 4964 or 07825 894716.