The quality of learning disability services varies widely across the country and is not improving quickly enough, a report, by regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has concluded.

The CQC’s Care Update found that services for people with learning disabilities provided by independent hospitals and community services have some way to go to provide a good quality of care, and some services still do not put people first.

However, the report added that the majority of services are delivering good quality care.

It also found that the disparity between the quality of healthcare in independent acute and community services – which continues to be high – and the quality of mental health and learning disability services, is still wide and is not improving quickly enough.

CQC’s latest Care Update is based on more than 20,000 inspections carried out between April 1 and December 31, 2012.

David Behan, chief executive of the CQC, said: “The majority of services are delivering good quality care, however care providers must do more to make sure that care is based on people’s individual needs.

“It’s six months since recommendations were made following the abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View. While there has been some improvement by those delivering services for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, there is still some way to go and CQC expected improvements to be made more quickly. We are still seeing too many independent mental health and learning disability services not delivering care that puts people first. 

“A patient-centred culture of care needs strong leadership, openness and transparency, and CQC will look closely at this in the coming year, particularly in those services caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“We will also be using and sharing the evidence of what works well to drive change in those providers and services that need to improve.”

Molly Mattingly, head of learning disability programmes at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, said: “It is simply unacceptable that over a year on from the horrific stories of abuse in residential care homes like Winterbourne, and the national outcry that ensued, we are still hearing about failings in the quality of care for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“Enough is enough. We know what good quality care looks like and we must now see a greater sense of urgency in actually achieving its universal delivery. We should not still be reading these reports. This should be about putting the basics in place now, not simply making incremental improvements over a long period of time.”

Jan Tregelles, acting chief executive of learning disability charity Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, founder of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, in a joint statement, agreed that progress to address failings in care has been too slow:

"We know that there are many people with a learning disability in assessment and treatment units, like Winterbourne View, who have experienced abuse and neglect. Their families are still fighting to bring their loved ones closer to home. Local commissioners have a responsibility to take urgent action to develop support and services to make this happen."