Minister demands health authorities speed up long stay hospital closures

Community care minister Stephen Ladyman has accused strategic
health authorities of dragging their feet on plans to close
long-stay hospitals for people with learning difficulties.

Speaking at the Learning Disability Today conference in London last
week, Ladyman said he would soon be announcing a new date for the
closure of the 20 remaining hospitals, since it had become clear
the April 2004 deadline was going to be missed.

Asked if he would allocate more cash to enable clients to move into
the community, Ladyman said: “If it is a funding issue, I will look
to see what I can do. But I think they [SHAs] dragged their feet
before they started on planning.”

He added that he had received many letters from relatives of people
in long-stay hospitals who were concerned about the whole process.
“We have to convince them we are serious about moving people out
but also that they will get proper support once they are moved,” he

Ladyman said he was angry that the £20m allocated to SHAs for
people with learning difficulties was being spent on other things,
and that he was considering what action he could take on

He also told social care staff to redouble their efforts to make
direct payments available to people with learning difficulties.

He said the fact that just one in 100 adults with a learning
difficulty receiving community services were on direct payments was
unacceptable when “the vast majority” could benefit from them.

“The slow take-up of direct payments among learning disabled people
is surely proof enough that many professionals do not believe
learning disabled people can manage their affairs, even with

He added that, although the ideals in the Valuing People
white paper were gradually becoming a reality, there was still a
long way to go. “One real change that we haven’t brought about yet
is a change of culture and perception. The change that would see
genuine acceptance of what people with learning disabilities can
achieve and can offer,” he said.

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