NHS EnglandA steering group set up by NHS England to develop recommendations for the establishment of a national framework for local commissioning of community-based support for people with learning disabilities will complete its work by the end of October, it has been announced. 

This group will specifically respond to the pledge set out in the Winterbourne View Concordat.

The steering group, chaired by Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of ACEVO, has representatives from people with learning disabilities, autism and their families, as well as voluntary sector organisations, senior leaders in health and care, local government, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and providers.

In a meeting on July 28 the group agreed that by combining the expertise from the people with learning disabilities and their families, the public, voluntary, community and other sectors it will develop recommendations for a national framework for improved services for people with learning disabilities. The group aims to complete its work by the end of October and will deliver a report to NHS England that sets out its recommendations.

The main focus of the steering group will be:

Recommendations for the development of the national framework – to be locally delivered

Looking at innovative commissioning solutions, tools and levers to put the framework in place and co-commissioning with the third sector

Looking at financial flows, including finance for capital investment in community development that will allow the national framework to be embedded

Reviewing options for the closure of some in-patients beds to support the delivery of community alternatives.

The steering group will be advised by two expert reference groups:

The patient/user/carer reference group; which includes people with learning disabilities, their families and carers

The social investment reference group; which includes health economists, social investors and housing and support organisations.

The group agreed that stakeholder engagement, including with service users and their families, will be a crucial part of this work and that the ultimate goal of the group is to help people with a learning disability to be supported in community settings closer to home. In the coming weeks it will discuss with user led, self-advocacy, family carer and other groups how it can most effectively involve people in the development of this work and the work of the wider NHS England Learning Disability Programme Board.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said: “The [steering group’s] report will be developed with input and guidance from people with learning disabilities and their families, and partners working in this field. It will create new pathways of care in the community to support people with learning disabilities to live at or near home and not in hospital.”

This establishment of this group in July met with cynicism from some in the sector, who questioned where this group fits within the current structure, especially in relation to the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement Partnership.