By Debbie le Quesne

Five years on from Winterbourne: It’s so depressing

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In May an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister called for urgent action for people with a learning disability still stuck in Winterbourne View impatient units.

Families of people abused at the infamous hospital have joined with charities airing their concerns at the “painfully slow” rate of change towards improving care for people with a learning disability.

Figures from the Learning Disability Census 2015 show that there has been little change since the Panorama programme exposed the abuse at Winterbourne View, with 3,500 people with a learning disability still stuck in inpatient units, as reported by Sue Learner in the online Carehome.co.uk. magazine.

As I recall there was a pledge from Government at the time of the newsbreak to move people with a learning disability back to their communities.

Alarmingly, Learner’s report states: “Further figures from the census revealed that of the patients receiving inpatient care, 72 per cent had received antipsychotic medication, yet only 28.5 per cent were recorded as having a psychotic disorder and 1,670 had experienced one or more incidents (self-harm, accidents, physical assault, restraint or seclusion) in the three months prior to census.

“It also shows that 670 people are 100km or more from home, an increase of 17 per cent on the year before.”

Can someone please tell me why five years’ on I’m still able to read reports like this? Have we learned nothing?

The open letter says:

“We the families of people abused at Winterbourne View hospital write to express our anger at the lack of change five years on from the day that Panorama exposed what happened to our loved ones.

“Despite clear commitments and plans from Government and the NHS, today, around 3,500 people, including over 160 children, are still stuck in places like Winterbourne View; often hundreds of miles from home, and at risk of abuse. Lives have even been lost.

‘The rate of change has been painfully slow, and people with a learning disability and their families continue to suffer as a result. Government and the NHS must end this outdated model of hospital care and tackle the inappropriate use of restraint, seclusion and anti-psychotic medication, which is devastating lives.”


The letter’s signatories are Steve Sollars, Ann Earley, Wendy Fiander, Claire and Emma Garrod, Dr Margaret Flynn, author of Winterbourne View Serious Case Review, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap and Vivien Cooper, chief executive of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation.


Ann Earley’s son Simon was one of the residents who faced abuse at Winterbourne View. He is now back in his local community receiving good care, according to Leaner article.


As an aside, I know the local authorities in the Midlands have worked hard to reduce the numbers of people going to placements out of the area, but it’s clear it’s not the case everywhere.



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