Social services likely to take responsibility for NHS’s learning difficulties services

The government has signalled it will transfer the NHS’s remaining learning difficulties responsibilities to social services, following today’s scathing report into care at Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said the Department of Health was “seriously looking at transferring responsibility from the NHS to local government for this kind of care because most of it anyway doesn’t actually require healthcare”.

He added: “We’ve got to do it in partnership between the NHS and local government and ourselves but I do believe that this is the right way forward.”

Currently, councils have commissioning responsibility for most learning difficulties services, but the NHS has retained this duty in certain areas.

The move is being considered as part of a DH review of learning difficulties services, announced following the report into abuse at services run by Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust last July. The review should report in the spring.

Lewis’s view was echoed by Rob Greig, national director for Valuing People.

He said: “I would expect the local authority to take the lead in commissioning to see authorities strengthen commissioning for learning disabilities.”

Today’s report identified “institutional abuse” and a culture that promoted dependency among services run by the trust, which includes Orchard Hill long-stay hospital.

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