Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

New vision of what learning disability services should look like in 10 years

A new report has set out a vision of what autism, learning disability and mental health services services should look like in 10 years’ time.

No Wrong Door looks at the ways that these vital services need to change. It says that for too long, they have not received the attention they need and deserve, leading to long waits, gaps in support, and poorer outcomes for the people they serve.

Commissioned by the NHS Confederation and written by the Centre for Mental Health, the report brings together research and engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, as well as people who bring personal and professional experience about what these services should be like in 2032.

It identifies ten interconnecting themes that underpin the vision and three key requirements that would turn the vision into reality. The ten themes are prevention, early intervention, access to quality, compassionate care, seeing the bigger picture, whole-person care, equality focus, co-production, autonomy, a stronger workforce and outcomes that matter.

The authors say that the vision is not just wishful thinking, but will only be out be achievable on a large scale if there is investment in services and the people who work in them, and a willingness to embrace radical change over the next ten years.

Embrace radical change over the next ten years

Recent figures show a 16% increase in people using NHS mental health services, and with a 30% rise in use in under-18s.

This alarming rise in demand is having a knock-on effect across the rest of the NHS as evidenced in recent reports suggesting that almost four times as many people are waiting more than 12 hours in A and E before they can access mental health care compared to two years ago, and more than 16,000 adults and 20,000 children who should be in receipt of community NHS mental health services not able to access the help they need every month.

While mental health services have previously benefitted from additional funding which has helped enable innovation and progress against the NHS Long Term Plan this was set before the onset of the pandemic.

Leaders are concerned that their services, staff and patients are now being side-lined at the time when demand is at an all-time high and when they are facing such huge and unsustainable pressure, they are very close to breaking point.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of Centre for Mental Health and co-author of the report said: “NHS mental health, autism and learning disability services need to change. We have produced a ten-point vision of how they should look different in ten years’ time. We know this vision can become a reality, because every element of it is already happening somewhere in the country.

“But to make it a reality for everyone, we need sustained and sufficient investment and a genuine commitment to radical reform of what services offer and how they work.”

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