Head of Winterbourne improvement programme steps down over safeguarding probe

Resignation of Bill Mumford sparks fears of further delays in reducing unnecessary hospital placements for people with learning disabilities

Bill Mumford
Bill Mumford (Credit: Sam Friedrich)

The head of the government-backed programme to transform learning disability care following the Winterboune View scandal has resigned.

Bill Mumford stood down after police and social services in Buckinghamshire launched an investigation into a safeguarding incident at one of the specialist residential schools run by learning disability provider MacIntyre, of which Mumford is chief executive. The investigation marks the second safeguarding probe into a MacIntyre service in the past three months.

In a statement Mumford said he “deeply regretted” having to step down from his role as director of the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement Programme (JIP). The programme’s purpose is to help commissioners meet the government’s objective of ending inappropriate placements of people with learning disabilities or autism in hospitals; however, a target to do this by 1 June 2014 has been missed.

“I am mindful of the sad and tragic situations faced by many individuals and families – there is so much still to be done,” he said.

Mumford was seconded to lead the Winterbourne View programme in December last year, when official figures showed the scheme had made little progress in cutting the number of learning disability patients in inpatient units.

He is credited with driving improvements in the scheme in his seven months in post, by changing its focus from national initiatives to working locally with commissioners to remove barriers to reducing hospital placements. The Department of Health said he had started to make “a real impact” on the scheme, which is funded by the DH but run by NHS England and the Local Government Association. A paper presented at an NHS England board meeting last week revealed that current estimates are for the discharge of around a third of remaining patients within the next 12 months. The paper says the position marked progress but “still needs to be significantly improved”.

Learning disability campaigners fear that Mumford’s resignation would lead to further setbacks in implementing the Winterbourne View programme.

In a statement, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of the Royal Mencap Society, and Vivien Cooper, chief executive of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: “The work the Joint Improvement Programme was established to do still remains worryingly incomplete, with the June deadline to support people with a learning disability to move back to their communities having long passed.

“It is fundamental that the resignation of Bill Mumford does not further delay a vital programme of work that is already well behind schedule.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “While we very much appreciate Bill Mumford’s work on the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement programme so far, we have accepted his resignation in light of a second allegation that has emerged involving staff at a MacIntyre school. The incident is currently under investigation. Bill had started to make a real impact has head of the joint improvement programme.

“We will update on the future for the programme as soon as possible, but we will use this opportunity to consider how to strengthen the partnerships and act together quickly to ensure that our objectives are not delayed or compromised.”

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “As an absolute priority, the LGA will work with Department of Health and NHS England to agree how the work of the Winterbourne View Joint improvement Programme will be delivered following the resignation of Bill Mumford.”

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