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Winterbourne View: Families Demand Overhaul Of ‘Broken’ Care System

May 27, 2021

Families of patients held in the Winterbourne View Hospital have written to the prime minister demanding better care for adults with learning disabilities.

The abuse of patients at the assessment and treatment unit near Hambrook, Bristol, was exposed by BBC Panorama 10 years ago this month.

The families said “countless” others have suffered “trauma” in the system.

Mencap said the lack of change in the last decade was “deplorable”.

Eleven of the hospital’s staff were prosecuted, but seven relatives of people who were housed there claim abuse in similar facilities continues.

Research by Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) shows 2,040 people with autism or learning disabilities are being held in assessment and treatment units.

The units are meant for short-term treatment but patients are held for an average of more than five-and-a-half years.

The charities said 355 people were in assessment and treatment units for more than 10 years.

In their letter to Boris Johnson, the families said: “Not even the exposure in the media of their torture has been sufficient motivation for government and the NHS to change a broken system.”

The families said they want to see the number of units cut and money ploughed into social services and residential care to allow people to live semi-independently.

“For the sake of our family members, and all others facing this system today, the change must happen,” they said.

Ann Earley, mother to Simon, now 47, who was at the hospital between 2010 and 2011, said: “The dangers have been exposed, the failures noted, the appalling damage catalogued, but still decision-makers and commissioners condemn our loved ones to a life of misery.”

Edel Harris, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “For people and their families to have been through such horrors and for so little to have changed is deplorable.

“We cannot tolerate a situation where more people are locked up simply because they cannot access appropriate support in their community.”

Vivien Cooper OBE, chief executive of the CBF, said: “Think what can be achieved in 10 years – then consider how little has changed for so many people with learning disabilities and autistic people.”

The Department for Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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