People with learning difficulties are being moved out of
long-stay NHS hospitals into private institutions in the face of
government guidance calling for people to receive community care,
writes Maria Ahmed.
Private provider Care Principles admitted this week it was
planning 70 new beds and said some patients had come from long-stay
Another provider, Castlebeck, confirmed it was “expanding
existing provision” but refused to comment further.
A source close to the Department of Health also revealed a case
where a local authority was “attempting” to refer an
individual to a private institution following the closure of an NHS
The news comes despite government guidance calling for
commissioners to place people “as far as possible in
community rather than institutional settings”.
This followed comments from former community care minister
Stephen Ladyman criticising councils for “reinventing the
long-stay hospital by the backdoor” by placing people in
private sector hospitals.
But Yvonne Cox, chief executive of Oxfordshire Learning
Disability NHS Trust, said it would be “hard to find a
primary care trust which had read [the guidance]”.
While she said commissioners were “beginning” to be
aware of the issue, there was a lack of community provision.
Rob Grieg, director of the Valuing People support team, said he
was concerned that the developments were occurring despite
“categoric assurance” he had received from strategic
health authorities that no people were being moved into private
institutions when long-stay hospitals closed.
But Dr Simon Halstead, medical director of Care Principles,
defended the use of private institutions, arguing that the Valuing
People programme “skirted around” the needs of people
who were “too dangerous” to be placed in the
He said: “Valuing People is full of constructive ideas for
the vast majority, but there is a small group whose needs fall
outside that frame of reference. We are taking up a client group
that would previously have found a home in a long-stay
But Greig added: “I do not accept that a significant
number of people cannot be supported in the community.”