Winterbourne View – Now is the Time
At last, we have a plan and timetable for the closure of institutions for people with learning disabilities. Closures that have been long awaited. The promises made in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal 5 years ago – that people in institutions would be moved by June 2014 – were broken.
Today, however, NHS England has delivered firm proposals to close in-patient units and ensure that people with learning disabilities have care in their own communities. This is welcome.
But we suspect families, who have been so often failed by false dawns, will need convincing this new plan will translate into action on the ground. To ensure that today’s proposals are driven forward, the author of reform – Sir Stephen Bubb – has launched a fact-finding mission to establish what is happening at community level.
He will hold an intensive consultation programme with service users, their relatives and community service providers to find out what they think of what has been delivered, and how they can be fully involved in the roll out of the plan.
Last year Sir Stephen Bubb was commissioned by NHSE to lead an independent inquiry into the care reforms needed in the light of the Winterbourne View scandal. His primary recommendation was the urgent closure of inappropriate in-patient care units and their replacement by care services within patients’ own communities.
That programme closure has now been published. It includes the closure of the largest NHS institution, Calderstones, which so baldly represents the need for change. Sir Stephen describes this closure and reprovision programme as a step-change in the delivery of 21st century health care and support for some of our country’s most vulnerable people. He welcomes it.
Proposals for change, however, can be cold comfort to those in need now. In August, 2,600 patients remained in Assessment and Treatment Units – exactly the same as in June 2014 and when the Winterbourne View scandal first broke.
More alarmingly, by August this year the number without transfer dates had risen to 1,490 from 920 in September 2014.
Sir Stephen Bubb is not yet content to rely either on proposals or his own assessment of what may or may not be happening or happen on the ground. Which is why he has launched his intensive consultation programme with the people and the service providers directly affected by these proposals and developments.
Commenting on today’s programme closure and the launch of his fact-finding mission Sir Stephen said: “There have been so many broken promises. So many reports. People with learning disabilities have been badly let down by the system. When I have spoken to people with learning disabilities who have been incarcerated in institutions for years I’m appalled at the way they have been treated.
“Physical restraint, over-medication and seclusion are shocking ways to treat our fellow citizens and I’m determined we must do better. That is why I welcome today’s closure programme. That’s why I welcome the plan to scale up community provision. In my view it’s a step-change. High time some will say, but I’m confident it is now going to happen.
“And a clear indication of the will to change comes with the announcement of the closure of the biggest of the NHS learning disability hospitals, Calderstones, and the plans to provide modern and professional care in the community.
“This will take time because we must ensure proper discussion and consultation with people and families; Making sure what is provided meets the best possible care for people who have been for so long so badly let down by the system.
“And to prevent that failure in future I’m also calling on the government to bring forward new legislation to enshrine rights to challenge for people with learning disabilities. This has been promised. But it needs to go hand in hand with closures and reprovision so that people with learning disabilities feel confident of their power to effect change.”