The government has announced it is providing £62m to discharge people with learning disabilities and autism in order to find more appropriate care in the community.
The funding has been assigned for discharge costs, including establishing community teams, funding accommodation and staff training.
Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “People with a learning disability and autistic people should have the best possible care, and I am determined to put an end to the health inequalities they too often face.
“Few of us would choose to remain in a hospital bed when we could be receiving better care in our own community – this funding will speed up discharge from hospital wards making a real difference to people’s lives.”
A new independent oversight panel, made up of clinical, psychological and commissioning experts as well as those with a lived experience, has also been set up that will make recommendations to transform the care and treatment of people with a learning disability and/or autism and prevent unnecessary admissions and the use of restrictive practices in future.
The funding announcement comes alongside the publication of NHS Digital’s Learning Disability Services Monthly Statistics, which show that at the end of June 2020, there were 2,085 people with a learning disability or autism in-patient hospitals in England.
While welcoming the government’s renewed focus on moving people from inpatient to community settings, Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of VODG, said there was a need for local partnership working with the voluntary sector and concerns remained over the provision of funding.
Dr Hughes highlighted earlier analysis from VODG, which reveals highly variable performance across transforming care partnerships in terms of successfully discharging people from NHS-funded care into the community.
“The £62million announced today falls significantly short of what is needed to truly transform care and end institutionalised detention for people with learning disabilities and/or autism,” Dr Hughes said.
The VODG has called for an additional £400m in funding over four years to invest in developing community provision that can support people with the most complex needs.
John Godden, CEO of Salutem, which runs 120 services for adults and children with complex needs and disabilities nationwide, said: “Everybody, whatever their care needs may be, deserves the opportunity to live their best life. Very often, people become unnecessarily institutionalised because there is insufficient community-based care of the right sort to meet the variance and complexity of their needs.
“While the Community Discharge Fund is to be welcomed, it is imperative that, in order to reach the right people in the right way, it is explicitly targeted and does not fall victim to the age old problem of mission-creep.”