Cornwall Partnership trust has been lifted out of special measures for 'substantial progress' in addressing serious failings in services for people with learning disabilities.

The trust was placed under special measures in July 2006 after a joint investigation by the Healthcare Commission and Commission for Social Care Inspection found widespread abuse and neglect.

A progress report published last week by the Healthcare Commission highlighted significant improvements in services but said there was "still considerable work to do". Health secretary Alan Johnson removed the trust from special measures, acting on the commission's advice.

Trust chief executive Lezli Boswell was commended for her "leadership, focus and determination" in the report. She said there had been "a multi-agency effort" to turn the trust around. A major service redesign has been overseen by the partnership trust, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly primary care trust, and Cornwall county council's adult social care department.

This included the closure of three inpatient units and shifting the provision of supported living services from the partnership trust to independent providers. The trust also has a new senior management team.

Ms Boswell, who took up post on the day the investigation was published, said it had been a tough management job.

"People were shocked, angry, frustrated and confused," she said.

Ms Boswell said managers' role had been to listen, be visible and promote a clear and consistent message to staff that "people using services had the right to a life free of abuse and neglect". She said most staff "wanted to do the right thing" but were hampered by a lack of leadership and training.

Among the biggest challenges would be rebuilding confidence in services and restoring Cornwall Partnership trust's reputation, she added.

The Healthcare Commission said areas for improvement included record keeping, involving service users and better commissioning of community services.

PCT chief executive Ann James said there had been a "transformation" in the way organisations worked together and with providers and services users. "We have made some real improvements but we can't be complacent," she added.

The PCT is set to transfer responsibility for commissioning learning disability services to the county council but will retain responsibility for commissioning specialist health services.