Disabled 'trapped' by NHS care
PEOPLE with severe learning disabilities are being let down by health services in Staffordshire, according to a damning new report.
The document found significant numbers 'trapped' in inappropriate and outdated NHS services which are both expensive and robbing them of the chance to lead better, more independent lives.
The county also relies too much on hospital beds for the residents because of an inability to support people in local housing and the community.
Investigators found one patient who had been kept in a bed at the Harplands Hospital treatment and assessment unit, Hartshill, for five years.
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Social services bosses told them of problems drafting in health specialists to help with crisis cases in the community – and that patients' behaviour was no better when they left hospital than when they had gone in.
But NHS managers felt social care providers were too weak and unskilled to look after people with such complex and challenging needs.
Patients' families were also kept out of the loop when services were being drawn up for their loved-ones.
The review was ordered by the county's three primary care trusts and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire councils last November, but the conclusion has only now come to light following a Freedom of Information request.
Led by the National Development Team for Inclusion, it concludes: "There are significant shortcomings in the current commissioning and delivery of important elements of specialist health care that lead us to believe that the experience of people with learning disabilities and their families is, in many cases, not what it should be.
"This is resulting in people not receiving the support that could and should offer them the opportunity to live better lives.
"There was also limited evidence of mutual trust and confidence between people in different services.
"Almost all people we met placed responsibility for difficulties with other people and organisations, with limited recognition that they or their organisation had any ownership of current service difficulties."
The review – headed by former Government learning disabilities head Rob Greig – found services had a lack of strategic direction.
It called for a move away from hospital bed-based care to community support operated in partnership with social care providers.
His team could not find any evidence on how services were performing and whether patients were improving. And they discovered numbers in continuing healthcare were up to eight times higher than elsewhere.
The report says: "Collective leadership is absent and major change is essential though this cannot be achieved overnight."
Primary care trusts planning director Dawn Wickham said: "We recognised shortcomings in the commissioning and delivery of services, which is why we asked for this review.
"The recommendations are challenging but we welcome this report's directness and are committed to working to develop the service model that delivers the outcomes these people and their families should rightfully expect."