Sky News report into Assessment and Treatment Units

You may have seen a series of reports on Sky News this week, where health correspondent Paul Kelso spoke about the abuse of ATUs – in-patient facilities intended for the short-term assessment, treatment and stabilisation of people with mental health conditions who display challenging behaviours.

Individuals with a learning disability or autism are supposed to be discharged within 18 months into community-based care. In practice however, more than 2,000 people are currently in ATUs, with an average stay of more than five-and-a-half years. The report told of one individual who has been admitted for 18 years.

Mr Kelso’s report showed that despite a Government pledge three years ago to close down many of these ATUs, in September this year there were only 80 fewer people admitted to such units than in March 2015. A reduction from 2,395 to 2,315. This is simply not acceptable!

Shockingly the figures, released to Sky News under the Freedom of Information Act, also showed that cases of restraint being used in ATUs went up from 16,660 to 28,880 between 2016 and 2017. This included the use of medication, seclusion of patients, and physical restraint including face-down ‘prone restraint’.

Ray James, NHS England’s national director for learning disabilities, told Sky News that more than £75m is being invested to further improve community support to help hundreds of people to move out of ATUs. But, it was not revealed that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has actually prevented the provision of new community-based services through its ‘Registering the Right support’ (RRS) policy. The CQC’s interpretation of this policy places unrealistic and impractical limitations that do not allow bespoke services for the most complex people to be developed.

As a direct result of RRS, providers representing 3,385 specialist beds have now shelved plans to create 79 new specialist beds targeted at people being discharged from ATUs. The compounding effect of this is very significant. Even more significant is the CQC’s abject failure to even engage with specialist providers.  A regulator should not be the shaper of the market.

Read the full report from October 31st here:

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