Learning disabilities: Orchard Hill hospital set to close

Mencap has hailed “the end of an era” with the official closure of Orchard Hill, the last NHS hospital for people with a learning disability.

The hospital in Sutton, south west London, closes tomorrow (1 May), although 20 residents will continue to live on the site in bungalows, while their purpose-built apartments are being completed.

However, they will have their own tenancy arrangements and will receive their social care from independent providers.

Disgraceful institutions

Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said the NHS hospitals for people with a learning disability were “largely disgraceful institutions”.

“With few exceptions, the experience of people with a learning disability in these so-called hospitals was dreadful,” he added.

Shaun O’Leary, executive head of learning disabilities and mental health at Sutton Council and Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust, said the closure and transfer of care from Orchard Hill was a result of “partnership working between 10 councils and nine PCTs”.

Closure call

A Healthcare Commission report in January 2007 called for the closure of Orchard Hill after it found institutional abuse and a culture of dependency at the hospital and 11 homes in Sutton, Merton and East Sussex, all run by Sutton and Merton PCT.

But an inspection report in 2008 said the PCT had made good overall progress since the earlier report.

The 2001 Valuing People white paper set a target of April 2004 for the closure of all long-stay hospitals. In 2003 this was extended to March 2006 but was still missed.

Related articles

Special report: The final days of Orchard Hill residents

Expert guide to learning disabilities





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