NHS EnglandNHS England has published proposals to close England’s last old-style long-stay learning disability hospital at Calderstones in Lancashire, and create more community support for people with a learning disability and/or autism in the Northwest.

People in the region are being urged to have their say on the proposals that have been drawn up by local health and care leaders to modernise services. The proposals include the closure of Mersey Care Whalley site – formerly called Calderstones hospital – as called for by Sir Stephen Bubb’s ‘Winterbourne View – Time for Change’ report and the Public Accounts Committee.

NHS England will be consulting across the Northwest and beyond to ensure that the views of people who deliver and depend on these services are at the heart of how care is transformed across the region.

The announcement sets out proposals for delivering the reforms set out in ‘Building the right support: A national implementation plan’ to develop community services and only use inpatient facilities for those people with a learning disability and/or autism, when absolutely necessary and for shorter periods of time.

The proposals aim to ensure that people with learning disabilities and/or autism will:

Have greater choice in their pathway of care with equal and fair access to services

Be able to live in a community setting

Continue to receive care and treatment, closer to home, at the appropriate level to meet their needs

Receive proactive healthcare to maintain health and wellbeing

Have access to acute assessment services/inpatient provision when needed.

The Northwest currently has an over-dependence on institutional hospital care for people with a learning disability and/or autism compared to other areas of the country, due mainly to the historic lack of appropriate, high quality alternatives in the community, according to NHS England.

Lesley Patel, NHS England’s regional director of nursing for specialised services in the North, said: “People in the Northwest who have a learning disability or autism deserve services which empower them to lead more independent lives, in the communities they know and feel part of, and have greater say about the support they receive to do that.

“These proposals represent a shared vision on how we can deliver integrated, modern and excellent services for those with the most complex needs over the next three years.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, added: “These proposals put the north west region at the forefront of key changes that are being implemented across the country. Improving care for this group of people is a national priority and these proposals represent a major step forward in securing real improvements to people’s lives.”