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Learning disability care hospital beds reduced

'Culture of cruelty'

Four-and-a-half years ago the BBC's Panorama programme exposed abuse of people with learning disabilities and autism at the now closed Winterbourne View specialist hospital near Bristol.

The 24-bed hospital, which was owned by a company called Castlebeck and took NHS-funded patients, closed in 2011.

Six care workers were jailed and five were given suspended sentences for a "culture of cruelty" that included slapping patients, pulling their hair and trapping them under chairs.


'There are families in despair'

Ann Earley

Ann Earley is the mother of Simon Tovey, a man with learning difficulties who was the victim of abuse at Winterbourne View. In secret footage filmed by Panorama, Mr Tovey, 38, was slapped, physically restrained and mentally abused.

In 2012, 11 of his former care workers were sentenced for either mistreatment or neglect.

His mother says Simon is now living in his own bungalow with 24/7 care, and very happy. She believes moving people with learning disabilities into community care is the right move.

"There is absolutely no excuse for people being locked up in hospitals away from families. If you have a prison sentence, there is an end to it," she told BBC Radio 5 live.

"There are people in dire circumstances, and families driven to the brink of despair trying to get people home, and it's not acceptable in the 21st Century."


The NHS admits people with a learning disability or autism have been failed for decades and Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: "Now is the time to put things right."

Around 2,600 such patients are in hospital at the moment, with three-quarters of them having been there for more than a year - although the number of discharges or transfers has increased by 38% over the last year.

Each bed costs £175,000 per year, is "often inappropriate" and used as a long-term option because of a lack of alternatives, the NHS said.

In a significant shift in the way care is provided, hospital units will be closed and £45m spent over three years to fund the move to community services.

'Homes, not hospitals'

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: "As good and necessary as some inpatient care can be, people with learning disabilities are clear they want to live in homes, not hospitals.

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