Learning disabilities services: Sutton and Merton improving

A primary care trust previously slammed for its learning disability services has made good overall progress, an inspection has found.

Sutton and Merton PCT has improved the safety of service users, strengthened its senior management team and ensured better training for clinical staff, a Healthcare Commission report said.

In January 2007, an investigation by the commission found institutional abuse and a culture of dependency at Orchard Hill long-stay hospital and 11 homes in Sutton, Merton and East Sussex, all run by the trust.

The health watchdog made 25 recommendations including the closures of Orchard Hill and Osbourne House, a care home in Hastings. But the commission’s progress report, published yesterday, found parents and service users were concerned about the moves.

Nigel Ellis, head of investigations at the commission, said the trust had made “considerable in-roads” but still faced “challenges” in closing Orchard Hill and Osborne House.

He added: “It is essential that the move of patients from Orchard Hill and the closure of Osborne House is handled sensitively to ensure the right moves are being identified for people that will best meet their needs.”

Bill Gillespie, chief executive of Sutton and Merton PCT, said the trust had invested more than £1m in improving learning disability services.

He added: “We will continue to focus on moving residents from NHS residential facilities into supported living and registered care homes in the community. Our local authority partners are ensuring that the new care models meet the assessed needs of residents, and we are working closely with them to ensure a smooth move to community services.”

Last September, a Commission for Social Care Inspection report on Sutton Council’s services for people with learning disabilities found “promising capacity for improvement”, with a clear strategic direction, and praised employment support services. But it criticised the “heavy reliance” on one “old-fashioned” day centre, the low take-up of direct payments and continued existence of Orchard Hill.

Related articles

Learning disabilities: Sutton on the up after scathing report

Inquiry reveals another institutional abuse scandal involving NHS trust

Two long stay hospitals still open despite closure pledge

Orchard Hill special report


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