EAST Lancashire’s patients' champion has dismissed health bosses announcement of £800,000 to help people with learning disabilities as a "drop in the ocean".

Russ McLean, of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said the money will not make a huge difference to people with learning disabilities, already treated as "second class citizens" for health funding.

But NHS England chiefs said the funding will help patients living with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum disorders in Lancashire and South Cumbria, "lead more independent lives, closer to their friends and family."

The funding comes after NHS England confirmed last year that it would close Calderstones Hospital (now Mersey Care Whalley) in Whalley, which is the only NHS hospital in Britain that specialises in learning disabilities, by 2019.

Mr McLean said: "Of course any money that can help people get help closer to home in their community is to be welcomed, but it's still only a drop in the ocean to what is really needed."

"I don't think this can replace hospitals such as Calderstones though, in which it was an absolute travesty to see close down.

"My concern about closing this hospital and seeing people return to their community is that some more dangerous offenders from the high secure unit of Calderstones, may return into the community without being rehabilitated properly."

Funding announced by NHS England will be used in Lancashire and South Cumbria to:

•Support a dedicated team of discharge co-ordinators, who are working with health and social care providers to arrange care packages for people currently in hospital as they move towards being ready for discharge from hospital

• Develop a Lancashire and South Cumbria Housing Strategy to support the provision of appropriate housing

• Support work that will see a care pathway commissioned, to support people in the community from childhood

NHS England said the funding is part of a national £10 million fund over the next two years, which is supporting fourteen local Transforming Care Partnerships (TCPs).

TCPs are made up of NHS organisations, local authorities and NHS England commissioners who work to develop new, high-quality, community services for people in their area, with the aim to reduce reliance on inpatient services for people who have learning disabilities.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England and Chair of the Transforming Care Delivery Board, said:“Thanks to efforts so far, we’ve already seen an 13% fall in the number of people inappropriately in inpatient settings across England - people who instead are now able to get better more personal home-based support.

“This next wave of funding will see even more people and families benefit."

Debbie Nixon, Chief Operating Officer, Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are working with service users and carers to develop more responsive community based services across the area.