England’s last long-stay hospital ‘closes its doors’


The last long-stay hospital in England has officially closed its doors – although people with learning difficulties are still living on the site.
Orchard Hill, in Carshalton, Surrey, “closed” on 1 May, fulfilling a pledge the government made in its 2001 Valuing People white paper to shut all England’s remaining long-stay hospitals for people with learning difficulties. The original deadline was April 2004.
But some residents will still be living on the Orchard Hill site until March 2010.
Two will leave Orchard Hill within two months, another 10 in November, with the remaining eight in March 2010.
Sutton and Merton Primary Care Trust, which ran Orchard Hill, said the hospital had “closed” on 1 May and the 20 residents had become “tenants” of a housing association which is managing the site, with “a full supported living service” from independent providers, until new homes were ready in Sutton.
A Department of Health (DH) spokeswoman said the delays were caused by “extenuating circumstances”, including judicial reviews brought by relatives of residents, and “soil contamination” on a site where some of the new homes were being built.
In 2007, the Healthcare Commission revealed institutional abuse and neglect at Orchard Hill and other accommodation run by the trust, although standards have since improved.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said the closure of the last long-stay hospital marked the “end of an era. With few exceptions, the experience of people with a learning disability in these so-called hospitals was dreadful.”
Mabel Cooper, who spent 20 years in another long-stay hospital, said: “It was just like a prison. We were not even allowed out to go and look at the shops across the road.”
The government has also pledged to close all NHS campus accommodation for people with learning difficulties by 2010.
There are still 1,000 people living on NHS campuses, according to figures from October 2008. The DH said it anticipates that “everyone will have firm plans in place to move by the end of 2010”.