After Winterbourne?

December 19, 2014

After WinterbourneThe CQC has released a report into the performance of Calderstones NHS trust, at an inpatient facility for people with a learning disability. It revealed shortcomings in the care provided. A press release points to ‘failure to maintain cleanliness and hygiene on the wards, problems with levels of staffing on some wards, poor medicines management, the frequency with which patients were restrained in the face-down position, and a failure to adequately monitor the use of the Mental Health Act.’ Many patients were found to be placed there for longer than five years. The report called for urgent action to improve the service provided.

New form of inspection

It is to be celebrated that this new form of inspection has been effective in identifying serious issues in this specialist care facility. It augurs well for the future, suggesting both that issues at this facility will be sorted out, and that the regulator has the strength and skill to highlight serious deficiencies in long term care for people with learning disability.

But on the other hand, it is in my view shockingly reminiscent of the 2011 scandal at WInterbourne View, highlighted by the BBC Panorama’s team fly-on-the-wall documentary.

After those revelations, promises were made to reduce the number of placements in long term large units where people were cared for inadequately, far from home, and on a long term basis. Better placements were said to be needed, with alternative more satisfactory small scale services provided. As we now know, there has not been a national reduction in the numbers of people with learning disability in long term care, but an increase. This CQC report indicates there are still serious failings to be sorted out.

The Bubb report of this year pointed out the need for change: we hope this will not be swallowed up in the NHS Five Year Forward plan for all NHS services.

Urgent change

The Panorama report, the Bubb report, this CQC report, all indicate a serious problem with looking after people with learning disability. Families and the people themselves are crying out not for more reports, but for urgent change. In my view our society needs changed attitudes and greater acceptance and respect for people with learning disability.

The Bubb report advocated listening to, and empowering people with disability and their families: this is a good starting point which can be followed by everyone in the helping professions involved.

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Tony Clarke

Scottish Care Inspectorate Specialist

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