I went to an interesting meeting last week where I actually learnt something about Calderstones. Not unfortunately about it's future - the NHS are still tight lipped and the County Council are still playing dumb - but at least Calderstones itself seems willing to be more open about what it is, what has happened and what it is doing about things.
Their chief executive came to a local forum and to be fair, did his best to be as open as he could about things. He accepted and apologised for some poorly phrased comments he'd made and accepted the criticisms that CQC had identified and tried to explain what Calderstones was and what they were trying to do about things.
He was at pains to spell out that Calderstones wasn't an ordinary learning disability 'hospital' that took general social service referrals. It actually houses a large medium secure unit and although all the people there have a learning disability, and many also have mental illnesses, three quarters of the 200 people there are detained under the justice system - if they weren't there, they would probably be (and many already had been) in prison for serious offences. The remainder have very challenging behaviour and are mainly there because they are in danger of harming themselves or other people. This does not of course excuse any excessive or inappropriate use of of outdated and potentially dangerous restraint methods. This is accepted and is being partly addressed by things like changing the training emphasis from restraint to de-escalation. All in all I came away fairly convinced that they were doing as good a job as they could given the resources they had.
What I'm still very worried about is the silence of the NHS and LCC over Calderstones future. The cat (rumour) is out of the bag (someone in Whitehall being quoted) and my fear is that a political decision will be taken, behind closed doors - and if it's to close Calderstones, without any real plan to continue supporting the residents. Dispersing them back to overcrowded and ill equipped prisons would be a catastrophe for the individuals, the prison system and the justice department. There is a need for a plan - at least Calderstones seem willing to talk about one. All we need now is for the NHS and LCC to join the conversation - preferably in the open.