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Learning disability care criticised

17th January 2007

27042006_empty_corridor.jpgThe NHS looks set to handover responsibility for learning disability services - and more than £2bn in funding - to local authorities.

It comes after Healthcare Commission inspectors found residents at learning disability units run by Sutton and Merton primary care trust in London had been subjected to a catalogue of physical and sexual abuse, including one incident of rape.

Inspectors found people were living in impoverished conditions with inappropriate and sometimes cruel treatments. One woman resident had her arm tied to a splint for most of the day, apparently to prevent her putting her hand in her mouth and developing sores.

It is the second critical report of NHS-run learning disability services within the last six months. Last summer the commission reported on abuses of learning disabled people in services run by the Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust.

Now the commission plans to inspect 200 learning disability services across England as part of an audit. But the government wants to halt the review, instead calling for the NHS to surrender its lead role in providing the services to local councils, who already control many learning disability services across the country.

Some health bosses have admitted that the NHS is not the best organisation to run learning disability services, which often amount to little more than social care, rather than health care. Other trusts have held onto their services, favouring partnership arrangements with local authorities.

Sutton and Merton PCT is among those trusts handing over the reins to its local authority.

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