Cash to help close hospitals welcomed

    The government announced an extra £41m funding for learning
    difficulties services last week as a Community Care
    investigation revealed that many local authorities are still
    failing to meet key Valuing People targets.

    Learning difficulties groups welcomed the government’s cash
    injection last week, which will boost the provision of residential
    services as long-stay hospitals close.

    Three-quarters of the 20 long-stay hospitals for people with
    learning difficulties that missed the original April 2004 deadline
    for closure are still open almost a year on.

    Five of these – the Orchard Hill hospital in Sutton, the
    Gloucester centre in Peterborough, Prudhoe and Northgate hospitals
    in Northumberland and the Princess Marina hospital in
    Northamptonshire – are also situated within areas showing
    poor performance on direct payments.

    The Commission for Social Care Inspection identified Northumberland
    and Northamptonshire Councils as requiring “urgent
    investigation” into their provision of direct payments in the
    social services performance assessment framework indicators for
    2003-4. Sutton and Peterborough Councils were said to need to be
    questioned about their performance.

    The Valuing People support team is expected to report on the
    progress towards the closure of long-stay hospitals and the
    provision of direct payments to community care minister Stephen
    Ladyman in its annual report next month.

    The majority of institutions still open told Community
    they were “in the process” of moving
    residents out and were “confident” of meeting the new
    April 2006 deadline for closure.

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