• Kate responds to the CQC closure of Eldertree Lodge in Staffordshire, following abuse of patients

    Kate Allen Chief Executive

    We are currently nearing the end of the accounting year-end audit and preparation of the 2020/21 annual report. As I fully reflect on the last 12 months, despite living and working through it, I still find the situation quite unreal.  It is a credit to this country how well most people have coped and all that we achieved. The report will be circulated once finalised in September.

    We have 2 members of staff reporting Covid positive this week within Berkshire and 0 people we support.

    I typically provide an update every two weeks, interspersed on other weeks with news from members of the team and this week we were due to share an update from Adam, our Gardening Coordinator. However, the awful disclosure of appalling abuse taking place at Eldertree Lodge in Staffordshire and the subsequent instruction to close by CQC could not go without comment.

    I attended the virtual meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Learning Disability & Autism at the end of June whereby the future of Transforming Care was discussed. I heard the Minister of State for Social Care, Helen Whatley, agree that autistic people and those with learning disabilities have the right to live independent and fulfilled lives outside of hospital, in the community. Good quality lives. Meaningful lives.  The Health & Social Care Select Committee in July that reviewed the treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities highlighted concerns about the quality of training and support provided to staff working in hospitals.

    The full report of that meeting can be found here https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/6669/documents/71689/default/

    Whilst Helen Whatley described discontent and frustration at the lack of progress of the Government’s Transforming Care Agenda, if the Minister feels frustrated, how does she think those directly affected feel? The autistic person who was dragged into a seclusion room? The female patient whose dignity was not protected when during an incident her body was exposed? The patients who were living in unsafe and dirty environments? The relatives of those living there who will be suffering also? I think they will be feeling more than just frustrated.

    The Transforming Care Agenda was established following the Winterbourne View scandal to ensure there were other options for autistic people, those with learning disabilities and mental health co-morbidities, other than hospital. It set targets for moving people out of institutions. It was set-up to challenge and change organisation and staff cultures, where poor practice and abuse was tolerated and allowed to continue. Transforming Care said it would demand compassion in care.

    To hear of yet more abuse being experienced by vulnerable people in the 10th anniversary year of Winterbourne View is beyond sad. It is unacceptable.

    Also this week another hospital for autistic adults in Bromsgrove and a care home for autistic adults in Cornwall were placed in special measures by the CQC for failing to keep people safe and providing unacceptable living conditions.

    This is not about money, this is about people. This is about humanity and society. We cannot accept and allow autistic people, vulnerable people who rely on those who care for them, to be subjected to substandard care at best and abuse at worst. However, in order for this to change there needs to be real investment in community support.

    It is important to recognise that not all hospitals or assessment & treatment units are bad, nor are all the staff who work there. But that does not take away from the fact that they are unhelpful environments for autistic people and they can foster unacceptable cultures and practice.

    The new support services we have provided for Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset (see the Chief Operating Officer’s update of 16th July) demonstrates that with a new model of funding that allows the provision of highly experienced and skilled staff, alongside compassion, kindness and stickability (not giving up easily), community living is achievable for everyone.

    This awful situation demonstrates yet again that we must keep pushing on Government to respond with urgency and to help decent, caring providers do what we do best, which is transforming lives – not agendas.


    Abi Cowley

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