• NHS England announces a £75m boost for the Transforming Care Programme
  • The cash will be used to improve community services to help move more people with learning difficulties and autism out of hospital
  • £23.6m is new cash, while £53m is being released through the decommissioning of specialist inpatient beds

NHS England has announced an additional £75m for a national flagship programme to improve community services for people with learning disabilities.

It announced last night it is investing £76.6m into the Transforming Care Programme to move people with learning disabilities out of hospital.

The programme aims to close 35 to 50 per cent of inpatient beds for people with learning difficulties and autism and provide alternative care in the community by March 2019.

The national commissioning body said £23.6m is being allocated from its transformation fund and will be invested in new community services for local areas, including strengthening specialist and crisis response teams. It will also be used to set up teams to support children and young people in the community.

The other £53m will be released through the decommissioning of specialist inpatient beds during 2018-19 and then passed to local areas. NHS England said it has decommissioned 430 beds since 2015.

NHS England’s national learning disabilities director Ray James said although good progress had been made, there was still a lot more to do.

The most recent figures from NHS Digital show that there were 2,400 learning difficulties patients in inpatient beds in May 2018, a drop of 475 from the March 2015 baseline of 2,875.

This means to hit the minimum target of a 35 per cent cut in bed numbers to 1,869 NHS England and clinical commissioning groups will have to decommission 531 beds in the next nine months.

Mr James added: “While we know there is still much to do, in many areas good progress has been made.

“There are fewer people with learning disabilities living in hospitals, making a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of people.

“But more needs to be done and this extra investment will help to strengthen services in the community to provide the right support and best possible care to enable more people with learning disabilities to live in, or near, their own homes.”

The announcement comes days after former care minister Norman Lamb branded the Transforming Care Programme a “failure”.

Mr Lamb’s, who established the programme following the Winterbourne View scandal, comments come after it emerged that a number of Transforming Care Partnerships have not set up specialist 24/7 multidisciplinary teams to support some of the most challenging adults and children with learning difficulties to live in their own homes.

HSJ also revealed in April that a number of areas were facing “unplanned costs” and that if bed closures continued at the current rate the target will be missed.