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Learning Disability Services (Cornwall Partnerships NHS Trust)

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

The Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) have published a report of their investigation into abuse at Cornwall Partnerships NHS Trust. The investigation uncovered systematic abuse of people in a number of the trust’s learning disability services. Such abuse is totally unacceptable and a source of both anger and concern.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission fully to accept the conclusions of the report and agree that the special measures proposed should be applied to the trust under the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003. The Department will work closely with the trust, the strategic health authority and the local primary care trusts in addressing all the recommendations and implementing the special measures. We also would expect to see immediate action on national recommendations at a local level.

In addition, the Department is supporting the Healthcare Commission to audit facilities for people with learning disabilities to ensure that this kind of situation is not happening elsewhere. This will ask all organisations in England providing learning disability services to the NHS to undergo a review to assess them against specified criteria. The audit will identify services that are not registered and identify people who have been placed inappropriately. The analysis of this work will determine what further action the regulatory bodies take.

One of the key national recommendations is for the Department to strengthen the process for safeguarding vulnerable adults. The Department is taking forward a series of policies to ensure additional safeguards for the protection of vulnerable adults. These include the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill and the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill is currently going through Parliament. It will ensure that unsuitable people are not employed by the NHS in future. In addition, proposals to amend the Mental Capacity Act will close the Bournewood gap. Together these will provide more robust protection for all vulnerable groups, including adults with learning disabilities such as those in Cornwall. We will be responding to further national recommendations in the report and ensuring that we learn from this grave situation. We will keep the House informed.

With the help of an external team appointed by the Department and the SHA, the local NHS and county council have already taken steps to safeguard vulnerable adults. They have also provided support to people with learning disabilities and their families. The regulators have referred 40 people to Cornwall county council protection of vulnerable adults scheme and these will be thoroughly investigated. Investigations will be carried out by the police where necessary.