Welsh NHS Faces Judicial Review Over Failure To Plan Mental Health Care Services

Specialist Lawyers Claim Failure to Gather Information And Plan Services Across Wales Breaches Basic Duties of the NHS In Relation To Vulnerable Adults

16.11.2015

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A 21-year old girl with a learning disability and autism and her family are taking their case to the High Court tomorrow (17/11/2015) for a Judicial Review of the Welsh NHS’s alleged failure to gather the information necessary and to then plan services throughout Wales for patients with mental health problems in the country.

Claire Dyer was detained under the Mental Health Act last year because she sometimes displays difficult behaviour when feeling threatened. However there were no suitable placements available in Wales at the time so the health board responsible for her care moved her to a hospital facility in Brighton for three months, some 230 miles away from her family home. 

It was only after a petition was signed calling for her return home by over 95,000 people that Claire was finally moved back to her family in Swansea.

Her family instructed the specialist Public Law team at Irwin Mitchell to challenge the authorities in this case and to seek a long-term solution for her care. Lawyers at the firm say they have been left with no choice but to seek a Judicial Review to force the authorities to ensure they are gathering the right information to enable a decision to be made about the number of other vulnerable people like Claire in Wales and the appropriate number of beds.  They argue that the absence of doing so has breached the most basic duty to ensure that there are enough hospitals to meet reasonable requirements throughout Wales. 

Now after a High Court judge gave permission for a Judicial Review, the case will be heard over two days in the Welsh courts.

Since her move back home Claire is now receiving a care package supporting her in the community but the family are fearful that should a similar situation arise where Claire needs a secure placement, and wants assurances that other families will be able to receive the help they need in future.

The move to Brighton was sanctioned by the NHS Wales Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board because it said there was no suitable alternative placements in the whole of Wales – something both the family and specialists lawyers at Irwin Mitchell representing Claire and her family say is unacceptable.

In England, the Department of Health’s response to the scandal at Winterbourne View Hospital highlighted the need for services to be ‘provided locally where possible’ and that ‘sending people out of area into hospital or large residential settings can cause real harm to individuals by weakening relationships with family and friends and taking them away from familiar places and community’. 

The Judicial Review is being sought against the Welsh Ministers, the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board, and the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, as they all have a role to play in ensuring the necessary information is gathered to plan appropriate provision of services.  Statements in support of the Claim have been filed by Wales’s largest learning disability charity Mencap Cymru and Learning Disability Wales, an umbrella body of some 90 third sector organisations active in the field of learning disability.

Expert Opinion
“There is a monetary cost to the NHS of having to send someone to Brighton or elsewhere in England, but there is also the personal cost to that individual and their family who are forced to have to travel up to 500 miles for a round trip just to see their loved ones. As has been repeatedly recognised, this can lead to increase distress and challenging behaviour, leading to a vicious circle for young adults like Claire.

“Claire and her family feel very strongly that more could and should be done to gather the information required to plan services for people like Claire with a real, long-term solution in Wales so that they can get the support they need in an environment that is appropriate for their needs. We hope this case will establish the legal requirements for those managing the NHS in Wales.”
Alex Rook, Partner

Claire’s mother, Cath Dyer from Swansea, said: “It is clear that people like Claire need specialist support but we were staggered to find that there was no specialist place at all for her in Wales.  It was heart-breaking for Claire and all her family when she was sent hundreds of miles away to Brighton, having spent almost every day with us before she was sent away. 

“People with autism need a certain level of stability in their lives and moving Claire out of Wales and so far away from her family had a devastating effect upon her and all the family, including her brother and sister.

“Seeing my daughter having to be shifted around the UK because there is no real solution in Wales is simply not acceptable. We hope the courts will review the situation and this case results in the authorities  taking action to ensure they understand the needs of people with mental health issues.”

Sometimes mental health professionals can fail in the duty of care. If you or a loved one has suffered due to professional or medical negligence we can help you to claim compensation. Visit our Mental Health Negligence Claims page for more information.