Department of Health publishes interim report to drive up standards and prevent abuse

27 Jun 2012 03:31 PM

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has announced a series of national actions aimed at tackling the worst aspects of the care of people with learning disabilities or autism and challenging behaviour, which can lead to inexcusable abuse.

In response to the events at Winterbourne View last year, Paul Burstow established a far-reaching review into what took place there and a wider investigation into how the health and care system supports this group of people. Today, Paul Burstow has published an interim report containing new proposals to improve the quality and safety of services for this group of vulnerable people.

The report sets out how people with learning disabilities can receive the right care, and details how the experience of families and carers will be used to drive up standards and prevent abuse.

As part of this review, the Care Quality Commission was asked to inspect similar settings to Winterbourne View to see whether there was a more widespread problem. Today sees the publication of the CQC’s report, detailing their 145 inspections – concluding that while no abuse on the scale of Winterbourne View was found, half of the hospitals inspected failed to meet CQC standards of care.

The CQC’s findings reinforce the need for action, and demonstrate the importance of the 14 national actions identified in the DH interim report to address the serious issue of bad care and possible abuse. The Department’s full review, which will reference Winterbourne View, will be published in the autumn after criminal proceedings have concluded.

Paul Burstow said:

“This report is not our last word on the shocking events at Winterbourne View. However, there is compelling evidence that some people with learning disabilities are being failed by health and care services. While people in some parts of the country receive good quality and compassionate care – near to family and friends – this is not always the norm. This is why we asked CQC to conduct their inspections and this is why we are publishing our interim report today.

“Our national actions will mean that people have access to good care, closer to home. They will make sure those who provide care, commission care and care staff – know exactly what part they must play and what standards are expected of them.”

The Department of Health’s national actions include:

  • People with learning disabilities and their families: we will promote open access for families and visitors including advocates and visiting professionals and encourage people to be involved in reviewing the care that they receive.
  • Unannounced inspections: encouraging the CQC to carry out unannounced inspections at any time of the day and week and to look at how their registration requirements could be changed to improve the quality of services.
  • Concordat: a national public commitment to deliver the right care for people with learning disabilities or autism and challenging behaviour will be made in the autumn by key partner organisations, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association, the Royal Colleges and the NHS Commissioning Board.
  • Contracts: we will work with the NHS Commissioning Board Authority to agree by January 2013 how best to embed Quality of Health Principles in the system, using NHS contracting and guidance.

Andrea Pope-Smith, co-chair of the ADASS Learning Disability Network, said:

“Events last year at Winterbourne View quite understandably shocked the entire nation by the violent, thoughtless attacks on people with learning disabilities that were disclosed. This report acknowledges the extent to which they have been failed. But more optimistically provides a practical guide towards providing for them more efficiently, humanely and effectively within their own communities. It entirely accords with the government’s, and others’, commitment to the dignity agenda – an agenda which we hope will be given additional strength in the forthcoming White Paper.”

Dr Ian Hall, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Intellectual Disability, said:

We very much welcome the government’s interim report and call to action. The College wants to ensure that people with learning disabilities who have challenging behaviour are supported in the best, most person-centred way, and have all their clinical needs properly addressed. To achieve this, we are working closely with other stakeholders to develop guidance for commissioners and to set standards for professionals.”

The events at Winterbourne View were an extreme and unacceptable example of abuse. The reviews initial findings are that they are not widespread or systemic, but there is evidence of poor quality care, people staying in assessment units for too long and people being placed too far from friends and family.

The final report will be published when criminal proceedings have concluded and we will publish a follow up report one year later to make sure that progress is being made.

Notes to editors

  1. For media enquiries only, contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5317 or 5435 or 5375.