Campaigners fear the government’s drive to close all NHS residential campuses for people with learning disabilities could be thrown off track because it does not know how many people are living on them.
Figures provided to Community Care by the Department of Health reveal that half of England’s 10 strategic health authorities do not yet have accurate data on the number of people who need to be moved to homes in the community.
The DH has included people who have been admitted for assessment and treatment but who have been on a campus for longer than 18 months in its definition of campus resident.
But some SHAs have not established how many people fall into this category, even though the government has set a 2010 deadline for closing all campuses and transferring people to homes in the community.
Statistics provided by the SHAs show that there are 1,683 people who definitely fall within the definition of campus resident but there could be hundreds more.
Andrew Holman, who heads Inspired Services, said he was often “staggered” at the lack of solid data held by the government on people with learning disabilities. “It undermines the DH’s credibility. There are a lot of guesstimates and it simply is not good enough,” he said.
He added that establishing accurate figures was an essential starting point in order to plan the scale of provision needed in the community.
The DH has already missed two targets to close long-stay hospitals, with more than 80 people still living in the remaining two. Most of them are in Orchard Hill in Sutton, south London, which is not due to close before April 2009.
“It certainly does not do much for our confidence that the campus closures will be any more efficient,” added Holman.
David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at charity Mencap, added: “We welcome the proposal to close all NHS campuses but it is crucial to ensure that all those affected are properly identified.”
POLICY DRIVEN BY NEED TO IMPROVE OUTCOMES
The 2010 target was set in last January’s health and social care white paper, which said campuses, where residents are classed as NHS inpatients, limited choice and resulted in worse outcomes than community-based accommodation.
The DH tasked its Valuing People Support Team with ensuring local commissioners achieve the target by ensuring all individuals are moved to suitable accommodation.
More information on learning disabilities services
Community Care’s campaign
Closing campuses for people with learning difficulties
Lost in the system: the missing learning disabilities ‘patients’ on NHS campuses
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