Reassurance over plans to move people with learning difficulties and complex needs out of hospitals and into the community

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

A health chief sought to reassure Hartlepool councillors over plans to move people with learning disabilities and complex needs out of hospitals and into the community.

The Transforming Care Programme will see patients cared for in the community with the systematic closure of hospital beds.

Councillor Stephen Thomas

Councillor Stephen Thomas

It follows scandalous abuse uncovered by the BBC at Winterbourne private hospital near Bristol, and the North East and Cumbria is one of five national fast track areas for the programme.

Councillors on Hartlepool’s Adult Services Committee previously raised concerns over funding levels for the programme and the impact it could have on patients and families who rely on the ’lifeline’ services.

Donna Owens commissioning and delivery manager who supports Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and others spoke to the Adult Services Committee about the plan.

She said the North East and Cumbria has a larger proportion of people in hospital settings due to a legacy of large institutions.

Ms Owens said: “Funding is a significant issue for us. We know there is going to be a pressure.

“We have had people that have been cared for in a hospital environment for a long time and their needs and packages are not in the main going to be cheap packages.

“They are going to be quite complex and expensive packages, that’s why we are working together to be as efficient as possible and also not compromise on qualitity.”

She said local CCGs and councils are working together to pool their resources to reduce overlap of services, and a secure outreach team is in place to help support and prevent people at risk of going into secure settings.

Ms Owens added: “We’ve achieved some significant changes in terms of those numbers from where we were.

“People now living in the community have a very different quality of life, they have access to everything they need and are very fulfilled.”

As part of the shift to community care, she said the CCGs are working to make sure existing providers have the skills they need and are also trying to attract new providers.

Councillor Stephen Thomas, chair of the Adult Services Committee, said: “As a policy group we have absolutely no problems at all with regard to people from Hartlepool who are currently in hospital provision coming back to Hartlepool, that’s really what we want to see.

“But we want to see that happening in a supported way, in a safe way and a model which maximises those individuals’ quality of life.”