Primary care trusts are visiting learning disability hospital patients only twice a year on average, despite concerns about the client group’s vulnerability, Community Care can reveal.
Information from 32 PCTs showed four people have had no visits at all in the past 12 months.
PCTs pay on average £2,770 a week for places in learning disability hospitals which are intended for short-term assessment and treatment.
Read our special report on long stays in learning disability hospitals
But Keith Smith, chief executive of the British Institute of Learning Disabilities, said the figures “gave the lie” to this idea, because short-term placements would need to be monitored more closely.
“It seems far too low to me that people are being visited that infrequently,” said Anthea Sully, director of the Learning Disability Coalition. “This is supposed to be a temporary measure for people to be able to move forward from a crisis, which means placements need to be reviewed.”
BBC Panorama’s screening of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal led to criticism of the PCT commissioners involved for failing to monitor the quality of care they were paying for. This will be investigated as part of the serious case review.
Last month, Community Care revealed that the Care Quality Commission had failed to inspect any learning disability hospitals between October 2010 and January 2011.
“We have already got inadequate inspection and inadequate commissioning reviewing the service,” added Sully. “For the people receiving the service it feels like they have been forgotten.”
Case study: ‘My son has been mentally destroyed’
Terry Rooney (pictured below) says the past five years spent in learning disability hospitals have “mentally destroyed” his son.
“He was supposed to be up there for six months and then back home,” he says.
Rooney’s son, who has autism and is also called Terry, has been in learning disability hospitals since 2006, and has spent time at Winterbourne View, the hospital at the centre of the abuse scandal uncovered by BBC Panorama.
Rooney Snr says his son, who is 29, has become more aggressive and difficult to deal with since entering hospital.
“It mentally destroyed him,” he says. “His behaviour is 10 times worse than when he was at home. He blames us for putting him there, I’m the fall guy.”
However, Rooney Snr blames the local adults’ services department for the situation.
He says he was unable to find adequate help when his son was still at home. The council offered only one hour’s day care a week and Rooney Jnr had to be accompanied by his father.
Rooney Jnr was later placed in hospitals in Bristol and Cardiff, even though his parents lived far away. He was placed locally briefly but the facility was closed due to lack of demand.
The effect of Terry Rooney Jnr’s prolonged “incarceration” on his parents was devastating. “My wife is on a lot of medication and she’s on the caseload of the mental health team for depression,” says Rooney Snr.
He has also been offered medication to cope with stress. He says he just wants his son back home but with adequate community support.
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