Plans to close up to half of inpatient beds for people with learning disabilities following the Winterbourne View scandal have been announced by the NHS and local government bodies.

The Transforming Care programme national implementation plan, published today by NHS England, the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said between 30 and 50 per cent of inpatient beds for people with learning disabilities were likely to close under the programme by 2019.

Closure rates could be higher in areas that made heavy use of inpatient care and the bulk of closures will be low secure beds. Figures from September show there were 2,595 individuals with learning disabilities receiving inpatient care, three-quarters of whom had been admitted more than a year ago.

Winterbourne View

Up to half of inpatient bed for people with learning disabilities will be closed following the Winterbourne View scandal

The plans say councils, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England’s specialised commissioners will form 49 new local Transforming Care Partnerships. They will pool their budgets for services for people with learning disabilities and autism. As previously reported by HSJ sister title Local Government Chronicle, the NHS will also provide dowries to councils for people who have been in inpatient care for five years or more to enable them to move to local authority care.

A package of funding worth £75m was also announced. This includes £45m from NHS England, of which £15m will be specifically for capital projects, and £30m funding from CCG budgets. This will allow areas to continue to run inpatient services at the same time as community provision while the transition between services occurs.

The document said the NHS would also explore making more capital funding available following the spending review.

Ray James, president of ADASS, told LGC the transitional funding should be adequate. He said: “I am optimistic that the £75m will be sufficient and I think it is good money to get people started. My hope is people get stuck into doing it and do not say there isn’t enough money. While this is a good statement of intent, it is just a plan – we have to deliver it.”

He said the new services should be cheaper than the inpatient beds they replace, so the system should be self-funding once the transformation is complete. He said most organisations providing accommodation in the community were upbeat about the possibility of raising the capital needed to deliver new facilities, such as supported housing, with some considering raising the money through social impact bonds.

Calderstones Partnership Foundation Trust, the only remaining standalone learning disability hospital trust in England, is set to be taken over by Mersey Care Trust and its 223 beds closed. Its patients will either move to new homes in the community or what the document called “state of the art” units elsewhere in the North West on a case by case basis.

Previously, the government failed to meet its target that people with learning disabilities would be able to leave hospital and live in their communities by June last year. That deadline was three years after the Winterbourne View abuse scandal was highlighted on television.

National guidelines on what support people and families can expect – the service model – were also published today.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England and chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board, said: “Society has failed this group of people for decades. Now is the time to put things right, and with this far reaching plan I am confident that we can finally make quick, significant and lasting improvements to their lives.”