• NHS England says funding for Transforming Care programme has been extended for a further year
  • Comes following failure to hit national targets for closing specialist learning disability inpatient beds 
  • However, the national commissioner would not set out details of the new funding

NHS England says a further year’s funding will be available for a major national programme, amid doubts from local commissioners.

The national commissioner told HSJ funding will be available in 2019-20 for the national Transforming Care programme, which is aimed at improving services for patients with learning disabilities and autism.

NHS England has missed its target to close between 30 to 50 per cent of learning disability inpatient beds by March 2019, which was when the programme was due to end.

In the long-term plan, NHSE set a target to close 50 per cent of inpatient beds by 2023-24, and promised “increased investment” in intensive, crisis and forensic community services for patients with LD and autism.

Although funding will be available to local areas in 2019-20, NHSE said it has not yet confirmed funding for each local area and could not confirm how much. The national commissioner added there would be funding available throughout the five years of the long-term plan. 

Clinical commissioning groups have had doubts over whether funding for the programme would continue beyond 2018-19.

Papers for Buckinghamshire CCG published in March, said: “NHSE are still to provide clarity on what monies will be released from specialised commissioning inpatient beds to support repatriation. There is no additional funds for investment and we have identified as a system a growing funding gap for this cohort.

We have set out controls that advise NHSE of the issues of Bucks TCP not getting any transformation funding… This is a national issue.”

Meanwhile, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG said it was awaiting confirmation about availability of funding for the programme. 

In 2016, the national commissioner said at least £100m would be available to local areas to implement community services needed to support the discharge of patients from inpatient units. In a statement to HSJ, NHS England said all of the transformation money available has been spent so far.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap, said: “Uncertainty around funding and future plans for the Transforming Care programme means uncertainty for each and every family who is in a desperate situation, not knowing when they will next see their loved ones living in the community where they belong.

To avoid the same failings we’ve seen over the last eight years, NHSE needs to detail its long-term funding commitment, including what is available at national and local levels, to ensure that people with a learning disability stop being put at risk of abuse and neglect in inpatient settings, where they can end up trapped, on average for more than five years.”

Story updated at 10:53 with following confirmation NHS England funding promise beyond 2019-20 and that all transformation funding has been spent so far.