The National Audit Office concludes that this failure was partly due to there being no mechanisms for systematically pooling resources to build sufficient capacity in the community for this to happen.

It states that so far there has been no financial incentive for local commissioners to bring such patients home.

Among it’s key recommendations the National Audit Office states every patient must have a discharge plan and that local areas should work with NHS England and pool budgets to make joint decisions on care, which would incentivise the joining up of health and social care services.

The National Audit Office report follows the “The Transforming Care for People with Learning Disabilities – Next Steps” report which was published on 29 January 2015. 

In the report NHS England, and partners, outline the latest plan to substantially reduce the number of people with a learning disability and challenging behaviour placed in hospital, reducing the length of time those admitted spend there, and enhancing the quality of both hospital and community settings.

Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive at Mencap, and Viv Cooper, Chief Executive at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:

The National Audit Office report confirms what many of us have known for some time that the government, NHS England and local authorities have failed to support people with a learning disability who display challenging behaviour to move out of inappropriate settings like Winterbourne View and back to their communities. The NAO’s report highlights that despite significant public funds and resources, there has been an abject failure to deliver the change needed. Thousands of people with learning disabilities remain in units for an average stay of 5.4 years, often far from their loved ones at risk of assault, over medication and being kept in isolation.

The NAO make important recommendations about what must happen next to rescue this failing programme, ensuring health and social care services work together with pooled budgets to bring people back to their local areas with the right support.

Following the NAO’s report NHS England and its partners must learn from their failings and reassure people with a learning disability and their families that they will put in place a robust implementation plan to meet the challenge and deadlines set down by the NAO.

The recently published report by NHS England and its partners is not fit for purpose. It failed to set out a timetabled nationwide closure programme of in-patient settings, and did not deliver any new money for investment in and development of local services. People with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges must be moved out of inappropriate places and returned to their communities where they receive the right support as a matter of urgency. Progress must be measured not by words and process but by the impact on people’s lives.

On January 29 2015 the “Learning Disability Census 2014’ also came out which was commissioned in the wake of physical and psychological abuse suffered by people with a learning disability at Winterbourne View Hospital exposed by a Panorama investigation broadcast in 2011. The Learning Disability Census 2014 reveals

  • 3,230 patients receiving inpatient care. Almost no change since last year (3,250)
  • Average length of stay in an institution is 5.4 years
  • 1,055 do not need inpatient care according to care plan
  • 2,345 patients (73%) had received antipsychotic medication either regularly or as needed in the 28 days prior to the census collection. Use of antipsychotic medication has increased between 2013 and 2014 .
  • 1,780 patients (55%) had one or more incidents (self-harm, accidents, physical assault, restraint or seclusion) in the three months prior to census day.

Further to this, in a letter published today in The Daily Telegraph, families of the victims abused at Winterbourne View assessment and treatment unit,  families of people stuck in similar places, and leading charities expressed their concern at a  lack of clear plan with achievable deadlines.  

The letter was instigated by Emma Garrod, the sister of Ben, who was abused at Winterbourne View.  Emma said:

Winterbourne View is a name with a legacy. Now synonymous with an abuse scandal exposed by an undercover journalist, it is a name that once meant only one thing to Ben: ‘home’.

It started with a carpet burn, a small mark, enough to raise my suspicions, and it ended with a persuasion - maybe there was some other explanation for the multitude of injuries appearing on my brother’s body. I thought I would never forgive myself for that lack of trust in the instincts that screamed at me throughout Ben’s time at Winterbourne View. For months after, the harrowing Panorama documentary sliced through the emotions of the whole family. My every thought turned to the possibility that I could have done something, that it might as well have been me on the end of that slap.

Today that guilt has turned to a deep determination - a determination to be one of the generations that sees real change, the generation that gives a voice to all people with learning disabilities, the generation that sees care in the care system - without exception.


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Notes to editors

About The Challenging Behaviour Foundation

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) is an independent charity providing information, support and workshops around challenging behaviour associated with severe learning disabilities to families and professionals. The CBF leads the ‘Challenging Behaviour National Strategy Group’ which seeks to influence policy and practice nationally and has developed the Challenging Behaviour Charter.

The Challenging Behaviour Foundation was founded in 1997 by Vivien Cooper, parent of a son with severe learning disabilities who displays behaviour described as challenging. Today the Challenging Behaviour Foundation is in regular contact with over 5000 families and professionals across the UK. There are an estimated 30,000 individuals in England with severe learning disabilities and behaviour described as challenging.

About Royal Mencap Society

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Independent charity Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.