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More than half of learning disability inpatients still in specialist units one year on

And most not ready for discharge, second national census for England shows

Caroline White

Friday, 30 January 2015

More than half of inpatients with a learning disability who were included in last year’s audit in England were still in specialist units one year later (1,830 of the 3,250 inpatients counted), figures from the second annual Learning Disability Census* show.

The Census, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), was started 2013 in response to events at Winterbourne View.

A May 2011 BBC Panorama programme broadcast footage of apparent abuse of inpatients, many of whom had learning disabilities, by staff at the hospital.

The census was one of the actions outlined in Transforming Care: A national response to Winterbourne View Hospital.

It covers the numbers, characteristics, and experience of care in NHS and independent facilities in England, of people whose treatment and support needs may be similar to those treated in Winterbourne View.

It includes those with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and/or challenging behaviours.

On 30 September 2014, 3,230 people met the criteria for inclusion in the census, 2,545 of whom (79%) were considered not ready for discharge.  

The most common reason reported by providers (for 1,365 people or 42% of inpatients) was a continuing need for inpatient care due to mental illness.

The second most commonly cited reason was that inpatients were receiving a continuing behavioural treatment programme (695; 21%) while the third was that the individual’s current behaviour was assessed as too risky to agree any reduction in security level (485; 15%).

The Census also found that the use of antipsychotic drugs had increased since 2013. On census day in 2014, 2,345 patients (73%) were on this type of medication either regularly or ‘as and when needed’ in the 28 days before data collection, compared to 2,220 patients (68%) in 2013.

The average length of stay was 547 days in 2014, compared to 542 in 2013, while the average distance of the treatment unit from home remained more or less the same: 34.4 km in 2014, compared to 34.5km in 2013.

But the number of patients who sustained one or more incidents of self-harm, accident, physical assault, restraint or seclusion in the three months preceding data collection, dropped slightly, from 1,875 (58%) in 2013 to 1,780 (55%) in 2014.


* Learning Disabilities Census Report - England, 30th of September 2014. Health and Social Care Information Centre. Publication date: January 29, 2015

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