Exclusive: Hospitals for people with learning difficulties set to miss closure deadline

More than three quarters of the long stay hospitals for people
with learning difficulties are at risk of not meeting the April
2004 deadline for closure, writes Clare

Project managers for at least seven of the 21 hospitals have
advised the government’s ‘Valuing People’ support team that their
current plans are unlikely to achieve closure by the deadline.
Another 10 are unsure that all people will have moved by then.

Around 500 people are likely to be still living in hospitals in
April 2004, the team estimates. It is working with some of the
hospitals to reduce this number, but difficulties in some places
make it unlikely that this figure will
become significantly lower.

Problems include legal challenges and other difficulties at St
Ebbas and Orchard Hill, both in Surrey, and in some places, the
responsibility for closure has been left mainly with NHS Trusts
which are suggesting plans not in line with the white paper,
‘Valuing People’.

In three hospitals, local authorities have refused to become
involved in plans, claiming it to be an NHS responsibility.

Rob Greig, director of implementation of the white paper, said
the support team is funding ‘learning sets’ for the
project managers of the hospitals, and would bring in help and
support on the issues the managers identify as being difficult.

“Whilst we want the deadline to be adhered to, we would not want
hospitals to rush and implement inappropriate poor services to meet
the deadline,” he said.

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