Simon Stevens has said he plans to close all learning disability beds and the last remaining hospital. That was the announcement last week but to be honest I’m not holding my breathe.
The sentiment is to be applauded but frankly we’ve heard it all before and I am not optimistic that this time is any different.
His announcement comes on the back of some bold announcements that have been hailed as great initiatives, but failed to deliver.
Norman Lamb laid down a marker two years ago when he set a deadline of June 2014 to move ALL vulnerable adults out of hospital or institutional care and into the community. That got nowhere fast and rather than reducing the population of vulnerable adults in long stay institutions or hospitals it saw more people placed in either hospitals or assessment centers, long term.
And things have got worse since then. Last year the population of vulnerable adults in such institutions was 2500, now it stands at 2600.
My cynicism was further entrenched when NHS England announced they planned to reduce the number of vulnerable adults in hospital from 1700 to 1300 – yet Simon Stevens announced he wanted them all living in their communities. It is almost as though they are getting the excuses ready before they have started to do anything about it.
Almost since the birth of the National Health Service the bold ambition has been to care for all vulnerable adults in local communities. Indeed, the 1959 Mental Health Act actually said that vulnerable adults should only be admitted to hospital if they wanted. I have never yet met a person ubu serves, who asked to be locked away from society.
Since then there has been a series of grand ambitions and frustrating failures as politicians and civil servants have struggled to implement a very simple, humane and cost effective support system for those most at risk in society.
There is absolutely no need for this procrastination to continue for any longer. ubu and other providers have the right kind of support that will enable the most vulnerable adult with the most complex needs to work towards greater independent living, in the right setting, at the heart of their community supported by the highest standard of enabler.
To make this work the powers that be, have to set out a clear timetable, with mile posts along the way to make people accountable. There has to be a realistic budget, £45m is nowhere near enough and there has to be the will to make it happen.
Simon Stevens’ words cost him nothing, not even the £45million he has pledged and frankly his talk is cheap. I’ve heard this before and I am sure I will hear it again because it is a case of déjà vu.
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