Orchard Hill: Final long-stay hospital to meet closure target

Orchard Hill, England’s last long-stay hospital for people with learning disabilities, is on course to meet its closure date of April 2009 despite facing “challenges” in moving out its 41 remaining residents.

Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust, which runs Orchard Hill, confirmed the target was in sight after a Healthcare Commission inspection report showed the PCT had made good overall progress since a damning January 2007 report.

A commission investigation in 2006 had found institutional abuse and a culture of dependency at Orchard Hill and 11 homes in Sutton, Merton and East Sussex, all run by the trust. It called for the closures of Orchard Hill and Osborne House, a Hastings care home.

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 said the process of moving service users needed to be handled “sensitively” to best meet their needs.

Shaun O’Leary, head of learning disability services for the PCT and Sutton Council, said 56 people had been moved out of Orchard Hill into supported living in the past 12 months.

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