NHS England backs new services to transform care for people with a learning disability and/or autism

NHS England is today giving local areas the means to improve the lives of people with a learning disability and/or autism, including developing ways of keeping children closer to their home and families.

From today, local partnerships – made up of NHS organisations, local authorities and NHS England commissioners, working closely with people who use services, their families and providers – can apply for transformation funding as they look to bring in new, high-quality, community services.

Funding is also now available to help children and young people live in the comfort and security of more familiar surroundings, instead of being admitted to specialist units or residential schools, often a long way from home. This is what happened to 16-year-old Josh Wills.

Josh was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two and began seriously self-harming around the age of 11. He was placed into specialist care in Birmingham but this meant his parents faced a 500 mile round trip to visit him from their home in Cornwall.

Josh is now back living in a specially adapted house near his parents. Today’s funding will help ensure more children like Josh get the help they need in more suitable ways.

Josh’s dad Phil said: “For three years we had to leave Josh early on Christmas Eve to drive back to Cornwall. I can’t tell you what a pain that was. Now he’s come home, the signs of the old, cheeky Josh are back and I’ll never tire of seeing him playing with his brothers and sisters, his Nan and Pa.

“Physically and emotionally he’s so much better, he sounds better and is eating better. His self-harming has improved and when people see photos of him they say ‘look at the sparkle in his eyes’. It’s taken a lot of people to get to where we are now and I want other families in the same situation to get the smiles back on their faces.

“There’s no doubt the best use of money for the care of children like Josh is to be close to their friends, family and the people they grew up with in a loving environment. At home, not a hospital.

“I didn’t want to have to fight so hard to get Josh back. It didn’t have to be like that but now the people and services around Josh are sitting around the table and working together. I’d like to see that happening in every county.

“Parents shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help because they think there’s a threat of their children being sent away. The families I’ve met in similar positions all want the same thing, they just want to be together, not just at Christmas but all year round.”

But while today’s announcement marks a strengthened focus on children with learning disabilities and/or autism, the new ways of caring that will be funded will benefit people at every stage of life.

£10m of transformation funding has already been allocated this year, meaning local areas have already been developing their schemes. Examples include local community crisis teams offering personalised home treatment and joined-up approaches to bring patients, like Josh, who have been placed in care outside of their region, back to their own communities.
In the south of England, £500,000 has been supporting these efforts and one person to benefit so far is James, 58, from North Somerset.

James’ moderate learning difficulties and challenging behaviour require a high level of supportive care in hospital but this required him to stay as an inpatient in Cardiff, miles away from his home town.

Using the Transforming Care funding, the local partners were able to provide a specially equipped bungalow far closer to his home area in Somerset, putting in place carers to support him during the day and night. He had input into how his new home would be furnished and it was decorated to fit in with the things James likes.

In August this year, James was able to move into his new home for the first time. He has settled in well and has been able to regain some independence. His condition has now improved and he enjoys making his own breakfast, going out for walks and has developed a keen interest in painting and drawing.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board, said: “This latest funding is about giving local NHS organisations and councils the means to deliver on their ambitions and those of people living with particularly complex health needs. But this can’t just be about money, it is vital that all services and care organisations are working successfully together.

“The focus on keeping children and young people at home with their families is a really important step in improving services. If we can get our approach right from the beginning, it gives us the basis for improving care throughout people’s lives.”

Today’s announcement is the latest milestone in the ongoing cross-system Transforming Care programme, which has seen a number of reforms including the roll out of Care and Treatment Reviews – around a hundred of which are now carried out every month.

In England, around 24,000 people who have a learning disability and/or autism are classed as being at risk of admission. 2,550 people were in inpatient settings as of 31st October 2016 according to the latest official figures which continues to demonstrate a reduction in the number of in-patients.

48 Transforming Care Partnerships are tasked with improving services in way that reflects the wishes and circumstances of local residents. NHS England has also made £100m of capital funding available over five years to support Transforming Care project, with investment totaling more than £20m already earmarked for schemes across the country in 2016/17, including new housing and services