The failing commissioning of secure inpatient provision is a national scandal that must be brought to a halt

A joint statement by Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, Learning Disability England, Shared Lives Plus and Association of Mental Health Providers following the BBC Panorama ‘Undercover hospital abuse scandal’.

The BBC Panorama programme, Undercover hospital abuse scandal, is heartbreaking to watch. But there are sadly no surprises here. People’s misery and untimely deaths have been met with reviews rather than radical change. Long-stay institutions for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental ill health should have closed decades ago yet successive governments have not acted.

A failure in the ‘market’ where these services operate means that secure hospitals are keeping people locked up for years. Some are places where abuse is too easy. These environments cannot offer an ordinary life to people who need support to live their lives. The ongoing commissioning of secure inpatient provision is a national scandal that must be brought to a halt.

High quality voluntary sector organisations offer an alternative. Family and carer groups, self-advocacy and advocacy organisations through to specialist community providers are just some of the many solutions that are available. It is a sad fact that these organisations have been under-utilised to support policies to de-commission long-stay institutions. It is also unacceptable that vast sums of public money are being paid to run services to offer nothing more than suboptimal and outdated care which is directly harming people.

Government must address these issues as a national priority. NHS England, local NHS organisations and councils have a duty to lead this. We believe they must:

  • Make themselves accountable to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental ill health, and their families, by creating formal relationships with local user-led and carers organisations and advocacy services.
  • Ensure everyone using long-term NHS care can access a personal health budget and an independent advocate to help them find and use new forms of community support to help them get out of hospital.
  • Work with high quality voluntary and community sector providers to redesign care around the person with a clear expectation that everyone can live a good life in the community.

Our organisations remain committed to working across the system so that plans to reduce, and ultimately, eliminate inappropriate secure services become reality. People who require support to live their lives deserve nothing less.