Review group studying improvements to care and support for people with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and Asberger syndrome

THE early findings of a new Joint Lothian Learning Disability Strategy Review were discussed at Lothian NHS Board meeting today.

The review is assessing options for change to specific services to meet increased demand for people with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and asperger syndrome.

Among the suggestions raised so far by the review are the creation of a single £10m plus budget for the commissioning of learning disability services for those with the most complex needs and the foundation of a new Partnership board where service users and their families would be represented equally alongside care professionals.

The board is to be asked to endorse plans to launch a public consultation phase for the review, which was instigated jointly by NHS Lothian, City of Edinburgh Council, West Lothian Council, East Lothian Council and Midlothian Council.

The four local authorities will also have to endorse the decision to move to a public consultation phase on the review.

Chris Bruce, Head of Integration and Performance, Community Care, NHS Lothian, said:

"People with learning disabilities have responded enthusiastically to the invitation to engage in the present review of learning disability services across Lothian. One theme to emerge has been the recommended development of a joint commissioning approach for services for all people with learning disabilities with complex needs. This should promote greater joint working.
"The creation of a Learning Disability Partnership Board has also attracted considerable interest. This board would consist of people with learning disabilities, parents and family carers sitting alongside health and social care professionals. If this proposal is supported, it could be set up by January 2008."

The proposals need to go through several approval stages, both within NHS Lothian and its partner local authorities, before potential implementation.

Over 200 individuals (including significant numbers of people with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and asperger syndrome and their carers) have contributed to the work of the strategy review so far.

NHS Lothian has been commended for being swift in the past to implement new thinking in learning disability services. It was the first board in Scotland to work with council partners to build up small community-based facilities or arrangements so that patients could move on allowing the board to shut down the large institutions.