Hospitals for people with learning difficulties unlikely to close on time

More than three-quarters of the long-stay hospitals for people with
learning difficulties may not meet the April 2004 deadline for
closure set out in the Valuing People white paper.

Project managers for at least seven of the 21 hospitals have
advised the Valuing People Support Team that they do not
expect to shut the sites by the deadline. A further 10 are unsure
whether all their residents will be moved by then.

The support team has estimated that about 500 people are likely to
be still living in hospitals in April 2004. It is working with some
of the hospitals to reduce this number, but said difficulties in
parts of the country made it unlikely that any fall would be

At two Surrey hospitals, St Ebba’s and Orchard Hill, obstacles
include legal challenges. In at least one other case, difficulties
have arisen because responsibility for closure has been left mainly
to NHS trusts which are suggesting plans that are not in line with
Valuing People. Elsewhere, local authorities have refused to become
involved in plans, claiming they are an NHS responsibility.

Paul Davies, director of development at Northgate and Prudhoe NHS
Trust in Northumberland, admitted there were difficulties reaching
an agreement with the Department of Health and local commissioners
about which residents should be included in the “long-stay”

The likelihood of the 29 residents at the Prudhoe site meeting the
deadline was “fairly promising”, he said, but the closure of
Northgate would be a struggle as the group of more than 100
residents included some with complex needs.

Ken Holland, head of learning difficulties services at Derbyshire
Mental Health Trust, said two years had been spent working on
person-centred plans at the trust’s Aston Hall.

He said more than half the 56 residents would be resettled by April
2004 but the group needing special accommodation would not be moved
until September. He said it would be wrong to ignore good planning
in order to meet the deadline.

Rob Greig, director of implementation for Valuing People, said the
support team would bring in help and support on the issues
identified as difficult by hospital project managers.

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

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