Learning Disability Census reveals ‘outrageous’ use of hospitals rather than community care

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Brandon Trust-Care Industry NewsThe continued use of Assessment and Treatment Units (A&T Units) for people with learning disabilities highlighted in today’s Learning Disability Census Report 2014 is “outrageous and caused primarily by lack of joined-up funding” according to leading charity Brandon Trust.

The Learning Disability Census 2014, released today (29th January) by the Health & Social Care Information Centre, reveals that the number of people with learning disabilities in A&T Units in 2014, average length of stay and distance from home is practically unchanged, despite the recommendations of the Winterbourne View report nearly four years ago.

The Census reveals there were:

  • 3,250 inpatients in 2014 compared to 3,250 in 2013*
  • The median average length of stay was around 18 months (547 days in 2014 versus 542 in 2013)
  • The median average distance from home in 2014 was 34.4 km compared to 34.5 km in 2013, with around a fifth based 100 km or more away from their home
  • Two thirds of patients (67%) were identified as needing to remain in inpatient care and only 28% were working towards discharge; 5% (155 people) are ready to leave but have no arrangement in place for their support

Lucy Hurst-Brown, chief executive of national learning disability charity Brandon Trust says:

“It’s outrageous that despite the tragedy of Winterbourne nearly four years ago and the repeated Government commitments to move away from the use of Assessment and Treatment Units, this practice continues. For the past 20 years, Brandon Trust has been working with people with very complex and often ‘challenging needs’ and our experience is that anyone with learning disabilities, no matter how severe, can live successfully in the community within the right setting and with the right support.  Indeed the sector has recognised this as best practice since the 1980’s some 30 years ago.”

“On-going dramatic cuts to Local Authority social services budgets are preventing required investment in appropriate local community support options, resulting in crises developing and individuals being referred to NHS funded Assessment and Treatment Units. The primary cause is therefore the disconnect between social care and NHS funding. Decisions about care are being made according to where the money is available, rather than best practice, yet if this funding was diverted to social care in the first place, people with learning disabilities could be supported in their communities, where we know they thrive best.”

“The reason this is happening is part of the same structural funding problem that has been causing the crisis with Accident & Emergency Units and acute beds in our hospitals; the different funding streams for social and health care.

“These Units are effectively containment centres, which are completely unsuitable and place huge restrictions on the personal freedom and choice of the people living in them. And by isolating people with learning disabilities from their friends and family, they can cause long-term damage to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Brandon Trust recently issued its Finding Freedom report, which demonstrates how community connections can transform the lives of people with learning disabilities and outlines practical recommendations for the sector and policy makers to deliver greater integration.

Recommendations outlined in the report include the need for the social care sector and support providers to become less risk averse, relinquishing control of their traditional role as care givers and acting instead as community connectors.

You can view the full report here.

You can view the full Census report here

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