I hope you all managed to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last night: Under Lock and Key? It was a shocking and disturbing insight into the bad practice at St Andrews in Northamptonshire, one of England’s large specialist hospitals. Indeed, I think this is scandal which regrettably will raise many of the same issues raised by the Winterbourne View documentary in 2011. The learning disability sector is once again working together to raise awareness and seek change as a result of this documentary.
It is such common sense that the starting point should always be to treat every person as an individual to be nurtured, rather than as a problem to be contained. Clearly St Andrews solution to good care is exactly the latter. Seclude, sedate and restrain ‘whether they liked it or not’ and effectively punish people for their Autistic behaviour.
This is in stark contrast to the absolutely brilliant and person centred, autism specific care the young people featured in the documentary are now receiving in Alderwood. As Fauzia’s mum said; ‘it’s as different as night and day’. I know Alderwood has received many calls and texts this morning from family members of people in their care to say how blessed and grateful they are that Alderwood is in charge of the care of their loved ones. I am so proud of each and every member of the Alderwood staff team. You are doing an amazing job and what a great demonstration of the fantastic transformations you make to the lives of some of the most vulnerable and challenging people.
I am also pleased to say that Norman Lamb MP, who featured on the programme, will be hosting our STOMP (Stopping Over Medication of People with Learning Disabilities) event in June at The House of Commons, to launch our Best Practice Guide. Matthew’s mum and dad and Fauzia’s Aunt will also be speaking at the event.
I have dedicated my career to making care more personalised by closing long-stay institutions and moving people back to the community with bespoke care packages. There is mounting evidence in favour of personalised care, and a move away from the type of institution featured in the programme. The £45 million investment in the facility featured in the documentary is money that could be far better spent on services that match the government’s stated policy of moving toward independent living in conjunction with bespoke support.
The Challenging Behaviour Foundation has launched a petition today to the CEO of NHS England, to stop sending people with a learning disability to large inpatient units. Please do sign and share.