Winterbourne View 10 years on: Supporting those with learning disabilities to stay safe and well

People with learning disabilities are still at risk of dying unnecessarily and receive poorer care – 10 years on from the abuse suffered at Winterbourne View.
Healthwatch winterbourne

Healthwatch was set up in the wake of the scandal - where systematic abuse of people with learning disabilities was uncovered - to give people a safe place to talk about their health and care needs. Since 2013 we have acted on patients' behalf if these are not being met.

Local Healthwatch South Glos is working to ensure people with learning disabilities get access to basic health and care - which could help prevent them from getting unwell and dying sooner than they should from often treatable conditions.

We have now created an important checklist to help ensure more people attend their annual health check with their GP. 

Our Improving Outcomes for People with Learning Disabilities report, which outlines how we worked to produce the checklist and ensure it is publicised to make an impact, will be presented at the next meeting of South Glos Council's Health Scrutiny Committee in June.

Healthwatch South Glos has worked with people with learning disabilities as well as key partners (Bristol, North Somerset and South Glos Clinical Commissioning Group, Southern Brooks and South Glos Council) on the checklist. 

Take-up of the annual health check-up with a GP is less than 50 per cent in the area (estimated at 36 per cent). 

The checklist has already been uploaded to GP resource TeamNet and Healthwatch is urging both GPs and those with learning disabilities to make use of it. 

Deputy Leader of South Glos Council and Co-Chair of the LD Partnership Board, Councillor Ben Stokes, says our Improving Outcomes for People with Learning Disabilities report is an important piece of work that highlights systemic inequalities for people with learning disabilities that need to be addressed both locally and nationally. 

After the Winterbourne View scandal was made public in the Panorama programme on May 31, 2011 the government brought in the Transforming Care programme with an aim to significantly reduce the number of people with a learning disability or autism admitted to hospitals and assessment and treatment units (ATUs).

NHS England aimed to halve the number of learning disabled and autistic people in inpatient settings by 2019 and improve the health and care services in those which remained open. 

However the timescale has since been extended to achieve this by 2024.

Healthwatch was formed as a result of the Health and Social Care Act of 2012.


Our new report looks at how people with learning disabilities can live longer, healthier lives by encouraging GPs to use the health checklist regularly.

Ways of circulating it are recommended below:-

  • That the Checklist is shared widely between Voluntary Sector Partners
  • That services promote the resource on social media to encourage conversations around LD Annual Health Checks and Health Assessment Programme for Seniors
  • That steps are taken to ensure GPs and Practice Managers make good use of the Checklist by sharing with People with learning disabilities and their carers
Click below to download our Learning Disabilities Project Report
Click below to download the Learning Disability Annual Health Check Checklist
Local Healthwatch was formed as a response to the Transforming Care report by the Department of Health after the shocking details about care at Winterbourne View emerged, so it is especially sad to learn that people with Learning Disabilities are still in inappropriate care settings across the country. It is our unrelenting mission to listen and share people's lived-experience so that the information informs how health and social care services improve. In Healthwatch South Gloucestershire we recently listened to people with learning disabilities and their families and developed with them an accessible info-sheet packed full of easy to read explanations about the life-saving benefits of annual health checks. We want to support surgeries and health professionals and work towards increasing the take-up of these essential checks so that health outcomes for people with learning disabilities start to improve.
— Our Area Manager, Vicky Marriott

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