Vow to improve care home standards

 

The Government pledged today to drive up standards in care homes for people with learning disabilities after a watchdog's report claimed nearly half were substandard.

Forty-eight per cent of the 145 hospitals and care homes inspected nationwide failed to meet required standards in terms of care and welfare, a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report showed today.

Patients were being locked in their rooms, bullied by other patients without action and were spending unacceptably long periods of time in care. One person has spent 17 years in a rehabilitation centre, according to the CQC report.

People were "bored and distressed" and not treated like individuals, according to one former learning disability services patient who helped produce the review.

There were also "lessons to be learned" by care providers about the use of restraint and an "urgent need" to reduce the use of restraint. Staff should be trained to use more appropriate ways of restraining patients, the report said.

The inspections focused on examining the general care and welfare of people who used the services as well as whether people were safe from abuse.

Independent services were twice as likely (33% compliant) to fail to meet these standards as NHS providers (68% compliant).

The unannounced inspections were carried out in the wake of abuse uncovered by the BBC's Panorama programme at Winterbourne View hospital near Bristol.

The undercover footage showed staff at the hospital appearing to taunt and physically abuse the vulnerable adults in their care.

But there was no evidence in this report that pointed to abuse on the scale uncovered at Winterbourne View hospital, CQC chairman Dame Jo Williams said.

Dame Jo said: "All providers need to look at what we found, question themselves day in, day out about whether or not they are meeting the standards and really keeping people safe."

Dame Jo said a copy of the CQC report has been sent to the NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson.

She said: "We believe it's really important that those new commissioning bodies, the clinical commissioning groups, really do pay special attention to people with a learning disability.

"They must not do it alone, they must do it with their partners, but we know that, unless they do pay special attention to this, it's all too easy for people with learning disabilities to be overlooked."

The Winterbourne View scandal also prompted a Government review into how the health and care system supports people with learning disabilities.

The Department of Health (DoH) today announced a series of proposals aimed at tackling the worst aspects of the care of people with learning disabilities or autism and challenging behaviour, which it said could lead to "inexcusable abuse".

Care Services Minister 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.

"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."

Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, said the care system needed stronger checks and balances.

He said: "Parents and carers of people with autism put a great deal of trust in a care system that all too often fails society's most vulnerable.

Mr Lever said he welcomed the DoH report.

He added: "We now urge the Government to build on this framework and ensure action is taken at both a national and local level to restore peoples' faith in the system and prevent further cases of malpractice and neglect.

"We urgently need stronger checks and balances to identify poor and abusive practice locally, and make sure it is eradicated."

Sean Sullivan, executive chairman of Castlebeck, who owned Winterbourne View and run 19 other homes or hospitals, said: "We have been through a period of salutary experiences for Castlebeck and the whole sector.

"This interim (DoH) review recognises that everyone has a duty to drive up standards. The recommendations it makes provides a firm basis for re-assuring ourselves about the standards of care we strive to achieve for our service users and their families. It also provides the framework for the whole sector to work together to re-establish public confidence and understanding."

David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents all organisations that commission and provide NHS services, said: "While progress has been made, this report shows that we are still too often failing to meet basic standards of care in the services we provide to people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

"We know there are places where good care is offered but it is not consistent or widespread enough.

"People with learning disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable groups of people served by the NHS and social care, and failure to meet basic standards of care set by the regulator is unacceptable.

"Both providers and commissioners of these services should review the services in their area to ensure they are not falling short of the standards we would expect to see."

PA

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