Skip to main content

A Trade in People: The inpatient healthcare economy for people with learning disabilities and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder

On the 31st of May 2011 the BBC programme Panorama's Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed was broadcast. It would lead to the prosecution and conviction of 11 members of staff, the closure of Winterbourne View Hospital and a flurry of activity on the part of government to try and establish why it had happened and how it could be prevented from happening in the future.

To this end the government conducted an inquiry that would lead to the publication of Transforming Care: A National Response to Winterbourne View Hospital which was jointly published with a Concordat: Programme of Action setting out the steps that government and key stakeholders would take to ensure that anything like the scandal at Winterbourne View would never happen again.

However, Transforming Care and its accompanying Concordat also set out to tackle the existence and the role of the hospitals themselves, and the emerging realisation that many of the people who were in them, shouldn’t be, or were in them for far too long.

Specifically, the Concordat set the community a number of objectives that the government expected to be achieved by 1 June 2014. These objectives included a review of hospital placements, the establishment of registers of people with challenging behaviour, the drafting and implementation of local plans, national leadership driving change at a local level, a life-course approach with planning beginning in childhood, and improved quality, safety and regulation. Over 50 organisations signed up to the Concordat and within it the different sectors committed themselves to different objectives.

Whilst some of the Concordat’s objectives were met, the overarching objective of getting people out of hospitals and back into their communities was missed. As a result a new inquiry was launched with a focus on the way in which services were being commissioned under the Chair of Sir Stephen Bubb. In 2014 the inquiry published Winterbourne View – Time for Change or The First Bubb Report as it would come to be known. The report argued that there were a number of reasons why more progress hadn’t been made, the most significant of which being:

It is that we make it too hard for stakeholders across the system to make change happen, and too easy to continue with the status quo. And we do not give enough power or support to the people most eager and best placed to make things change – starting with people with learning disabilities and/or autism themselves and their families
Winterbourne View – Time for Change, p.9