Lamb vows to name and shame councils who fail on Winterbourne targets

Care minister issues stark warning to commissioners who are failing to reshape care for adults with learning disabilities, two years on from the exposure of abuse at Winterbourne View.

Norman Lamb has said there will be “no hiding place” for councils and NHS bodies who fail to meet targets designed to help move people with learning disabilities out of hospitals in the wake of Winterbourne View.

The care services minister said failing councils and NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) would be “named and shamed” in a progress report, expected next month, on the government’s programme to improve care for people with learning disabilities or autism and “challenging behaviour”. He made the comments today, two years after BBC Panorama exposed abuse of people with learning disabilities at the now closed hospital near Bristol, run by Castlebeck.

Before their abolition on 1 April, all primary care trusts should have drawn up a register of clients placed in inpatient units, such as assessment and treatment centres, to pass on to the new CCGs. By 1 June, all CCGs and councils should have reviewed the needs of this group and developed personal care plans designed to support them to move into community settings by next June. 

The targets, set last December, are particularly significant as the Local Government Association and NHS England have signed up all councils and CCGs to meeting them through a “concordat”, which includes 75 action points and has been signed by more than 50 sector bodies.

‘Named and shamed’

“If commissioners have not met the 1 June commitment – and there was plenty of time to do this – they must be named and shamed,” Lamb told a meeting of concordat signatories today. “I’m determined that there will be no hiding place for those commissioners who do not do the right thing.”

The LGA and NHS England-led joint improvement programme, designed to help commissioners meet their objectives, has written to council chief executives asking them to provide information on whether they have met the targets. A similar request has gone out to CCGs and this “stocktake” will inform the forthcoming progress report.

Lamb said he wanted the report to go into “granular” detail about progress, specifying which organisations had met the targets and which had not. But he said councils and NHS partners needed to ensure they were improving outcomes for service users rather than ticking boxes.

“What I don’t want to see is people moved out of assessment and treatment centres, because that’s what commissioners are obliged to do, only for them to have an inappropriate and inadequate package of care in the community.”

He said that the joint improvement programme would work with organisations who had not met the targets to identify why this was so and help them improve.

The progress report will be followed by a census this autumn of people with learning disabilities or autism and additional mental health needs who are placed in inpatient units.

‘Come down like a ton of bricks’

Lamb warned that some commissioners were still placing people in assessment and treatment centres. “I have heard that some providers are saying that the phones keep ringing and commissioners keep choosing assessment and treatment centres to place people in. If I find out this autumn that commissioners have been doing that I will come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

Lamb also revealed that some of the 48 former residents of Winterbourne View were still living in institutional settings themselves, though this number has been reducing. The government has funded the charity Respond to support former Winterbourne patients and their families by setting up a helpline that is a gateway to counselling and other forms of support.

The meeting also heard that the Care Quality Commission would shortly start consulting on plans to overhaul regulation of health and social care in the light of Winterbourne and Robert Francis’ public inquiry into the neglect of patients at Stafford Hospital.

This would include plans to “raise the bar” for organisations looking to register – something that would firstly be applied to learning disability services – and increase the corporate accountability of providers’ boards for the care their organisations deliver.

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