Reports that Calderstones Hospital is set to close have been strongly denied by health officials.
Independent expert, Sir Stephen Bubb, who was asked by NHS England to review services for patients with learning disabilities or autism, advised health chiefs to close “large institutions” like the Whalley-based hospital and move patients into small units or community-based care intead.
Sir Stephen, who heads up the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: “The Bubb report was clear – large instituitions caring for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism should close, and local community care should be found as an alternative. This includes instituitions such as Calderstones Hospital.”
On his blog, he added: “When we closed the old mental asylums this was done as part of a clear closure programme. Politically it was agreed that institutions were not right for people with mental health problems, and that closure was going to happen. “Clearly, then, there had to be a strong programme to support the move of thousands into the community. But no one doubts that it was the right approach. And no one would want to go back to the old ways. So, why do we tolerate the existing system for people with learning disabilities?
“Now NHS England need to be brave and clear on closures. I’m pleased they want to start with Calderstones. But being coy and using vague language and circumlocutions to avoid the problem is not going to work. It’s not about ‘reconfiguration’ or ‘bed reductions’. It’s a principled stand which says clearly: large institutions are not an appropriate form of care in the 21st century.”
However, bosses at Calderstones say they have no knowledge of any plans to close the hospital. In a statement released to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, a spokesman for Calderstones Hospital said: “We would like to reassure those we support that the Trust has no knowledge of any closure programme affecting secure forensic learning disability services.
“We can confirm that we have had no conversations, which give credence to this debate. Our first concern is the anxiety of a significant number of very vulnerable people, as well as their carers, families and our staff. We have been working very closely with local commissioners to ensure best provision for those service users who have reached a point where they can live with support in the community.”
A spokesman for NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commission Group added: “We are the lead commissioners for the Enhanced Support Service (ESS) at Calderstones, which is a service that aims to support service users to live in the community.
“As such we work in partnership with the Trust, and with Specialised Commissioners and NHS England. We are keen to ensure that learning disability services are appropriate, high quality and effective for patients who require them.
“We are actively working with the Trust to ensure that patients who can live independently in the community with support, are able to do so.
“However, it is important to recognise that the majority of patients at Calderstones are supported and cared for in a safe, protective and therapeutic secure environment to help them achieve the best outcomes.
We are not aware of any plans to close the Trust at all, however, we are monitoring the situation very closely, noting that the Trust is nationally recognised as a specialist forensic learning disability service.”