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Winterbourne abuse: Reports expose failings in learning disability services
Monday 25 June 2012
Government sets national actions to improve learning disability services as half fail to meet minimum standards
Reports published today (25 June) have revealed shortcomings in care services for people with a learning disability and continued failings to protect people from abuse.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published its review of 145 services for people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges. The review was commissioned as as part of the government’s response to the abuse that was uncovered at the privately-run Winterbourne View care and assessment centre (pictured) by last May’s BBC Panorama programme.
The unannounced inspections took place between September 2011 and February 2012. They investigated the level of care provided at care and assessment units similar to Winterbourne View, run by the NHS, private care providers and adult social services.
The report, ‘Learning disability services inspection programme: National overview’, finds nearly half of the services inspected failed to meet CQC essential standards of quality and safety of care that people should expect.
Among its findings, the CQC identified specific safeguarding concerns at 27 locations, which needed to be referred to local authority safeguarding adult teams. It also found that length of stay at NHS and privately-run care and assessment centres ranged from six weeks to 17 years. ‘Generally, these were unacceptably long, and inconsistent with the descriptions of assessment and treatment,’ states the report.
The Department of Health responded to the CQC’s inspections by publishing its interim Winterbourne View report into how the health and social care system supports vulnerable people with a learning disability and autism.
The review sets out 14 national actions to address the issue of bad care or potential abuse. The actions include the promotion of open access to services for family members, advocates and visiting professionals, along with more unannounced CQC inspections.
“This report is not our last word on the shocking events at Winterbourne View,” said care services minister Paul Burstow. “However, there is compelling evidence that some people with learning disabilities are being failed by health and care services… Our national actions will mean that people have access to good care, closer to home. They will make sure those who provide care, commission care and care staff – know exactly what part they must play and what standards are expected of them."
But Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation are concerned that the national actions do not go far enough. The charities have called for the phased closure of large, institutional-style services for people with a learning disability, and their replacement by appropriate local services.
In a joint statement, Mencap’s chief executive Mark Goldring and Challenging Behaviour Foundation chief executive Viv Cooper, said: “One year on from Panorama’s undercover investigation into a private hospital for people with a learning disability, people continue to remain in large, out-of-town units for long periods of time, isolated and at risk of abuse and neglect.
“Action is needed to stop people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges being sent away to these services. The government’s proposals on local action will not be enough to create the systemic change needed. We are looking for a direct commitment from government to put in place a strong, practical action plan with clear targets when it publishes its final review”.
The government’s final report is expected later this year, once criminal proceedings involving former Winterbourne View staff members have been concluded.
Read the CQC’s review of learning disability services
Read the Department of Health’s interim Winterbourne View report into services for people with a learning disability
Email your MP: take action to stop the abuse and neglect of people with a learning disability