Chief nurse in Milton Keynes 'horrified' by Panorama care findings

A plan to transform care for people with learning disabilities – set up after a TV report expose eight years ago – has failed to achieve its objectives across the Milton Keynes region, health chiefs have heard.

A programme called Transforming Care reached the Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) region in 2015 in response to Panorama exposing abuse at Winterbourne View, a learning disability hospital near Bristol.

Hospital worker

Hospital worker

Transforming Care was meant to have achieved its targets by March this year but the board of Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) heard that targets have been missed and there is still much work to do.

Now, following another Panorama report on May 22, which uncovered staff abusing patients at Whorlton Hill psychiatric hospital, in Durham, a top nurse has revealed that she watched the programme with horror.

“Panorama showed some appalling circumstances and I watched it with horror,” said Anne Murray, the chief nurse at the CCG. She was updating the board at a meeting on Tuesday, May 28.

An investigation went undercover inside a specialist hospital for vulnerable adults. It revealed patients being mocked, taunted, and intimidated by staff. Patients with autism and learning disabilities were deliberately provoked by staff who then physically restrained them.

The CCG, together with colleagues in Bedfordshire and Luton, is trying to move patients out of hospital inpatient departments and into the community. But the chief nurse said there is a lack of provision in the community for some of the most challenging patients.

One of the BLMK tasks is to “develop a provider market” and the three CCGs across the patch are seeking help to do that. The numbers are relatively small, with around 30 adults and eight children in BLMK in hospitals at any one time.

But the three CCGs across BLMK last year missed their target of having 23 children and adults in inpatient units. Instead, there were 32, despite 27 being discharged.

“The work is continuing as a priority,” said Anne Murray. “We are looking for as much external help as possible.” That includes applying for money from NHS England.

But the chief nurse admitted: “It’s challenging work and not easy to turn around.”

Mike Rowlands, a public and patient engagement champion, on the MKCCG board, said he thought the work was progressing well: “People do not realise how much support people with learning disabilities need. It can go wrong if you get the care wrong.”