hscicSix in 10 people with learning disabilities who are inpatients in hospital treatment centres have lived there for more than a year and, of those, more than a quarter have been resident for more than 5 years, new figures have found.

Only 2 in 10 people were reported to have been resident for 3 months or fewer, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). 

The data comprises responses from 104 NHS and independent providers in England and provide a snapshot as at September 30. In all, 3,250 people with learning disabilities were found to be inpatients in hospital settings. The census was initiated by the Department of Health and carried out by the HSCIC to provide figures to address some of the concerns laid out in the Government report Transforming care: a national response to Winterbourne View Hospital.

The proportion who had been inpatients for five years or more was higher among those aged 65 and over (38%), compared to those aged between 18 and 64 (17.7%). Additionally, 7.6% of inpatients aged 18 and had been inpatients for five or more years.

Meanwhile, 1 in 5 people with learning disabilities who are staying in hospital settings are more than 100 kilometres from their home. About the same proportion (19.6%) stayed in wards within 10km of their residential postcode and 7.7% had the same postcode recorded for both residence and hospital.

Other findings of the survey include:

Almost half (49.5%) of inpatients for whom a ward postcode was known were treated in hospitals located in just 8% of local authorities

92.1% of the inpatients in the census were aged between 18 and 64, with under-18s making up 5.7% and patients aged 65 and over 2.2%

Most service users (76.3%) were inpatients in wards predominantly providing services for people with learning disabilities. A further 20.1% were inpatients in mental health wards. The remainder were inpatients on wards predominantly providing some other service.

Chair of the HSCIC, Kingsley Manning, said: "This report provides a benchmark on the numbers of inpatients with learning disabilities, highlighting evidence that many have been a long way from home for some time. Contact with family, friends, advocates and commissioners is an important part of ensuring people with learning disabilities get high quality care, responsive to their needs."

Alarming pace of progress

In a joint statement, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, chief executive of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said: “Finally, The Learning Disability Census Report, which shows how many people with a learning disability across the country are still in place like Winterbourne View, has been published. What it reveals is alarming – that the pace of progress has been distressingly slow. This is undermining the confidence of families in the government process as they are increasingly concerned it will continue to fail to protect their loved ones.  

“It is now two and half years since the Winterbourne View scandal and the census and progress report show nothing has changed. Many people with a learning disability are still in in-patient units hundreds of miles away from their homes and many have been there for over a year or more. We recently found out that 13 people who were at Winterbourne View are still in in-patient units and the census reveals that this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the Government cannot get it right for even the 48 people who were at Winterbourne View what chance is there for the 3,250 people stuck in similar units?   

“This is shocking. We have been granted a once in a lifetime opportunity post Winterbourne View to get care right. If the Government and local areas don’t stop dithering, we will miss this unique opportunity. In so doing, they continue to fail not only people with a learning disability, but everyone who saw or heard about what happened at Winterbourne View and demanded change.”   

The census will be re-run in September 2014 in order to identify change and particularly, where appropriate, reductions in inpatient care in favour of more suitable community care and support options.

To read the full report, click here