Residents ‘trapped’ in former NHS units denied move into community

Many people with learning difficulties in residential care are being “bypassed” in the government’s drive to move people into the community.

Charity Choice Support said that, although the Department of Health had started to move about 3,000 people out of NHS-run residential care units, those in former NHS units now run by independent providers were “trapped”.

The charity, which runs services throughout England, including in seven London boroughs, told Community Care that people in former NHS units were “beyond the government’s antennae”.

And Rob Greig, the national co-director for learning disabilities, admitted that people in former NHS units were “not a priority” for the DH because of “limited resources”, but said this could change.

Choice Support chief executive Steven Rose said he was angry the charity had received “little help” from the government since it took over the running of one unit, – Bowley Close, in Southwark, south London – from the NHS in 1989.

Rose said the site, which houses 26 people and is still owned by the NHS, was “not appropriate” for residents’ needs.

Greig said the DH was focusing on NHS campuses because people living in them were still legally classed as patients and “certain rights are denied to them”.

He added: “This does not apply in places like Bowley Close where people have ceased to be patients.”

Southwark Council said it was working with Choice Support to move people on and pointed to a lack of specific funding for reprovision.

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, called for the Healthcare Commission to look at how many people were held in former NHS sites as part of its national audit of learning difficulties services in the wake of the Cornwall abuse inquiry.

Government plans
The health and social care white paper, published in January, contained a pledge to move, by 2010, about 3,000 people with learning difficulties from NHS residential accommodation, known as NHS campuses. This was identified as a priority by the Valuing People support team last year after the targeted closure of most long-stay hospitals.

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