Of course, what happened at Winterbourne View came to light only as the result of the actions of the whistleblower, Terry Bryan, and the Panorama programme broadcast by the BBC. I personally thanked Terry for his actions when I spoke to him some months ago about the interim report that we published in June, and I do so

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again tonight. Thanks to Terry, the Care Quality Commission has changed its systems and set up a dedicated whistleblowing team. An even greater emphasis is being placed on the importance attached to the role of whistleblowers. That is why the Government have introduced a free whistleblowing helpline, not only for NHS staff but, for the first time, for social care staff, so that they can get advice on how to report concerns that they have. There has also been a strengthening of the NHS constitution to make these matters clear to their employers as well.

Terry Bryan blew the whistle on the worst excesses of a wider systemic failure. As I acknowledged in the Department of Health’s interim report in June, the problems revealed at Winterbourne View are more systemic. There has been a tendency when reporting on Winterbourne View to heap much, if not all, of the blame on the CQC. Indeed, the CQC seems to stand as the barrier to everyone else who should be in the dock being criticised, scrutinised and challenged for what went wrong. Although the CQC, rightly and properly, acknowledged its failings and apologised at the time, the issue of staffing and the freeze that this Government introduced on coming into office in May 2010 was specifically lifted for the CQC in October 2010, and there were no restrictions on staff recruitment. If there were failings of recruitment, the CQC would need to answer for them—indeed, it has—before the Health Committee.

Every part of the system—NHS and social care commissioners, providers, regulators and health and care professionals—has a part to play and, indeed, has questions to ask itself about what has passed.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The Minister rightly pays tribute to the whistleblower, but does he agree that when vulnerable people are moved away from their communities and, indeed, their families to care homes that may be many miles away, complaints are less likely to be made and, therefore, inspections less likely to be triggered?

Paul Burstow: My hon. Friend makes an important point and anticipates what I am about to say. The Department’s guidance is clear. People should be supported to live in the community, wherever possible, and only in strictly limited cases should assessment and treatment centres be used. Nowhere in policy or guidance is there justification for long-stay assessment and treatment hospitals. Indeed, the CQC found length of stay ranging from anything between six weeks and 17 years, with five to seven years not uncommon.

The hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) raised the issue of data during her intervention on the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill. I agree that we need to improve data collection so that we have a clearer picture of what is going on. The painstaking work of the serious case review, Department of Health officials and others to create a clear picture of the system begs questions about the adequacy of data collection for many years.

Fiona Mactaggart: I wrote to the hon. Gentleman last week—although, having been a Minister, I suspect that he has not seen my letter—asking him to conduct an audit of out-of-area placements of vulnerable people

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and to publish the figures on people who are placed a long way away from home. Will he commit tonight to do that?

Paul Burstow: What I will rightly do—having been a Minister, the hon. Lady will understand this—is give her the justice of reading her letter and considering properly what she has asked. There is merit in what she has said. There is certainly merit in ensuring that those who commission such services are collecting that information so that they have a clear picture of those who are being placed out of area.

I am more interested in the more fundamental question of the appropriateness of something that is outside of policy becoming a practice and being established as an ongoing practice. My point is that we need to look critically at the system that has allowed out-of-area placement to grow to the extent that it has, which has allowed such abuse to go unnoticed in some places for too long. There is no place for such long-stay institutions detaining vulnerable people far away from home.

Providers, commissioners, regulators and individual professionals all have a responsibility—a duty of care to those on whose behalf they commission services. Last year, in the wake of Winterbourne View, the CQC conducted 150 inspections of other services for people with learning disabilities. It adopted new ways of working involving experts both by profession and experience. Although the CQC found no other cases of abuse like those exposed at Winterbourne View, it is disturbing that half of the services that the CQC inspected revealed evidence of poor quality care that was failing to meet essential care and safeguarding standards. Everyone who is involved across the NHS and social care has a vital part to play in driving up standards.

As I have said, the Department’s guidance has been and remains clear. The interim report sets out clearly the elements of the model of care that we expect to see commissioned. However, that is not always happening on the ground. Those commissioning, or in too many cases, spot purchasing, long-stay assessment and treatment services need to look carefully at what they are doing. Indeed, I can tell the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill that the chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board and the Department’s director-general of social care wrote to chief executives and chairs of all NHS bodies and local authorities to highlight the interim report and reinforce their responsibility to improve commissioning.

When I published the interim report in June, I set out five objectives for improving services for people with learning disabilities and behaviour that challenges. Those objectives underpin the 14 national actions set out in the report to improve care and support for people with learning disabilities or autism and behaviours that challenge. Those actions include promoting open access for families and visitors and ensuring that people are involved in reviewing the care that they receive; encouraging the CQC to carry out unannounced inspections at any time of the day and week; working with the CQC and the Department for Education to promote best practice and positive behavioural support and ensure that physical restraint is only ever a last resort, and certainly not a tool of choice as it clearly was at Winterbourne View; improving integration between the NHS and social care by setting up health and wellbeing boards to agree joined-up ways of improving services; and getting a

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range of national organisations, including the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Royal College of General Practitioners and other royal colleges, the NHS Confederation and the NHS Commissioning Board, to sign up to a concordant setting out the actions that each will be committed to taking forward to deliver the right care for people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

One final action that I commend to the House is our work with the NHS Commissioning Board to improve the use of NHS contracts. When we read the serious case review, it is shocking to see how few NHS organisations used NHS contracts to contract their services. They used Castlebeck’s own contract, which was a poor document. The serious case review is just part of what we need to examine. There is also the NHS review of commissioning that was conducted by the South West strategic health authority, which sets out a number of other actions that are being taken to address failings.

I made it clear when we published the interim report that I would very much welcome feedback on it to ensure that the final report, and the action plan that we will publish alongside it, would be as robust as possible and deliver what Members of all parties wanted. I therefore welcome the report by Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. As part of our response, we will consider the role of commissioners and how we can support them in the new health and care system.

In addition to the work that my Department is doing directly in response to Winterbourne View, we are taking a number of other steps to improve the care and support system. For example, we are introducing the first ever code of conduct and national minimum training standards for health care and adult social care support workers. That goes to a point that was made in interventions. That work is being taken forward by Skills for Care and Skills for Health and will ensure, for the first time, that employers and people who provide care understand their responsibilities and roles in delivering high-quality and acceptable care to people who need it.

In July, when we published the White Paper on care and support, we set out plans for measures to increase the availability of appropriately skilled care workers, including by expanding the number of care apprenticeships. The White Paper also made the case for strengthening safeguarding, which is what this debate is fundamentally all about. That is a key priority for the Government.

We are committed to preventing, and reducing the risk of, significant harm to adults in vulnerable situations, while supporting individuals to maintain control over their own lives and to make informed choices without coercion. That is why the draft Care and Support Bill sets out a new statutory framework for adult safeguarding to address some of the defects that have been identified, and key responsibilities for local authorities and their partners in the NHS and the police. It will ensure that safeguarding adults boards exist everywhere in England. The Bill will place all that on a statutory footing for the first time.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill for securing the debate. In learning the lessons from Winterbourne View, I am determined to ensure that the voices of people with learning disabilities and of families are right at the heart of what we do.

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The National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities and the National Valuing Families Forum sit on the programme board that I chair, which will oversee progress on the action plan. Both have key roles to play locally and nationally in driving change.

Let me end by making it clear that the Government’s approach to people with learning disabilities is grounded in fundamental principles of human rights, independence, inclusion and choice. There can be no excuses. There is no tolerance of those who abuse disabled people.

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The right hon. Gentleman has done the House a service by bringing these matters to it tonight. I look forward to coming back to the House later this year with the final report setting out the actions that the Government will take to stamp out abuse.

Question put and agreed to.

10.15 pm

House adjourned.