Today (10th December 2012) Care minister Norman Lamb reported that the Government is planning a dramatic reduction in the number of people with learning disabilities kept in hospitals in England. He also stated that there are still over 3,400 people with a learning disability being cared for in secure long stay hospitals supported by public health funding. Mr lamb’s reaction to this was one of "shock, anger, dismay and deep regret about the treatment of vulnerable people with severe learning disabilities...”.
These latest reports seem contrary to the news we heard on the 8th May 2009, which reported that the last long-stay NHS hospital for adults with severe learning disabilities was finally abolished with the closure of Orchard Hill in Carshalton. This was after Orchard Hill had previously missed both the government's first deadline for closure of all long-stay hospitals in 2004 and the second deadline in April 2006.
Endorsing this significant action at the time the Guardian news report on 1st May 2009 stated “We only have to look to the appalling abuse and old-fashioned practices identified at Orchard Hill in January 2007 in a report by the commission of Social Care (CSCI), to show that this type of segregated institutional living can breed contempt and complacency among staff”.
We as the general public were lead to believe that the closure of such long stay hospitals by 2009 was to be the completion of the long-term closure program going as far back as the 1980’s closing all long stay hospitals for people with learning disabilities.
So it now begs the question why have any types of such long stay hospital been openly registered to still operate today? As we discover that these are the real facts why are politicians claiming shock and horror at such terrible situations when they as the Government endorsed the policies to allow such practices to continue?
Politicians claim they will not tolerate this anymore, yet public services openly allow the registration, and, moreover, have been commissioning these services under a different designation since 2009. Winterbourne View interestingly opened in 2006 after the Government’s second deadline on the closure of long stay hospitals. It begs a further question how a Government can rationalise this happening?
The BBC News UK also reported today that “proposals were broadly welcomed by Labour, but Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall called for greater clarity on the number of people the government wanted to move out of long-term care”.
Please can all politicians from all parties wake up to the fact that being confined in a long-term hospital has never been considered long-term care by learning disability professionals or the people themselves. Anyone who requires long-term care requires exactly that; long-term care, not long-term restraint.
No one is questioning the need for specialised hospitals – in fact there is an argument to say that more specialised local hospitals are required – what is greatly at question is why are public commissioners letting people stay in hospital long-term, believing this should become their home? Why are they not supporting people to move back to live safely within their own community? Especially when so many of us have been fighting for their right to do exactly that for years.
So please politicians NO MORE DECIEVING - this time make it transparent - THIS TIME IT HAS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE to the lives of those who have deceptively been imprisoned.