Concerns As 12 Cornish Children Have Been Moved From Region Due To Lack Of Local Services

Family Of Autistic Boy Sent 250 Miles Away For Care Say He Must Be Brought Home

04.07.2014

Public law experts at Irwin Mitchell have called for action to be taken to improve mental health services in Cornwall after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that between April 2013 and March 2014, 12 Cornish children were placed out of the area due to a lack of specialist support.

The results from NHS England have prompted the law firm to write to the NHS Commissioning board asking it to use its powers to ensure Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) improves availability of specialist services for children with significant autistic needs within the region, to ensure they can remain close to their families for support and minimise unnecessary disruption.

Irwin Mitchell was inspired to take action through its work acting on behalf of 13-year-old Josh Wills who has severe autism that causes him to self-injure. Josh was moved to a specialist unit 250 miles from the family’s home in Redruth due to a lack of nearby facilities. He has now been away from home for nearly two years.

The distance has had a huge impact on the family’s lives, causing Josh further heartache through not having his family nearby for support, and causing his parents distress as they struggle to juggle regular visits as well as raise their other young children.

Josh remains at the residential psychiatric unit in Birmingham, despite being assessed as fit for discharge, because there are no services in Cornwall to support him and protect his safety.

Fiona McGhie, is a public law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s South West office.

Expert Opinion
We are working on behalf of Josh and his family as we believe the failure by Kernow CCG to provide specialist services for children with severe autism and learning difficulties may fall short of its public law duties.

“We believe action has not been taken quick enough by the CCG to rectify this situation and given the Freedom of Information request has revealed 12 children in total have been placed outside of Cornwall between April 2013 and March 2014 due to the lack of facilities, it is clearly a very significant problem.

“The NHS Commissioning Board has powers to intervene if it considers that a CCG is failing to provide adequate services so we have now written to request that it uses these powers to force Kernow CCG to provide appropriate facilities in a time frame that it sees fit.

“We have seen first-hand how important it is that vulnerable children remain close to their families so they do not feel alienated whist receiving the specialist treatment and care they need. We will continue to fight on behalf of Josh’s family and others affected in Cornwall to ensure they have access to the specialist local services which they are entitled to.”
Fiona McGhie, Associate

Josh’s mother, Sarah Pedley, added: “We welcome this action taken by our legal team at Irwin Mitchell as we believe enough is enough and action must be taken now to bring Josh, and other Cornish children in a similar position, home.

“Josh cannot control his self-injurious behaviour and it was having a traumatic effect on the rest of the family, so we knew we had to make the incredibly difficult decision to place him in a specialist unit for his own safety.

“While the staff caring for Josh do a great job, what we can’t understand is why Josh can’t receive that same level of care, closer to home, so we are not over five hours away when our son needs a hug.

“Kernow CCG told us earlier in the year that he could be moved to a specialist unit in Gloucestershire but this is still 170 miles away which would leave us in the same situation.

“We hope that the NHS Commissioning Board will take immediate action now it is aware of the scale of the issue so that this huge problem can be rectified once and for all.”

 

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to access to social care