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Milestone Reached In Campaign To Save Respite Centre

Expert Lawyers Secure Agreement For Digby Court To Remain Open As Closure Decision Is Reviewed


The campaign to save Digby Court, which provides respite care for disabled children, has reached a major milestone after leading public lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured an agreement from NHS Dorset that it will remain open while they re-consider their decision to close the centre.

NHS Dorset has confirmed to Irwin Mitchell that it will review and re-take the decision in relation to the future provision of respite services for children provided at Digby Court, pending further engagement with service users, families and stakeholders.

The centre was set to close on 30 September 2012 but NHS Dorset has now confirmed that while the further consultation and assessment are ongoing, Digby Court will continue to provide respite care services for children.

Sue Coleman is heading up the campaign to save the Dorchester centre on behalf of her niece Tammy Davies, whose seven-year-old daughter Georgina uses the respite services.

The news has today been welcomed by the family who appointed public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to lead the legal challenge arguing that the current centre’s close proximity to the hospital is crucial and the alternatives offered will not meet the children’s’ needs and will involve them travelling significant distances away from their family homes.

Georgina suffers from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy and lives with her mother in Weymouth. She also has frequent epileptic fits needing urgent hospital treatment and if she were to have a seizure while in the alternative respite placement, her mother, Tammy would not be able to get to her as she cannot drive.

Polly Sweeney, a specialist at Irwin Mitchell in fighting on behalf of people who feel they have been unfairly treated by cuts to public services, said: “This is great news for Georgina and her family and the other users of the Digby Court service. Strong legal arguments were raised by us on behalf of our vulnerable client.

“The NHS Trust responsible has now agreed to put plans to close the centre on hold and re-consult and re-take the decision. It means that Georgina will still be able to access the vital care services she needs.

“The family don’t believe that NHS Dorset had properly assessed the impact of the decision not just on Georgina but the other vulnerable children affected before they took the decision.

“There have also been complaints that the families affected were not consulted properly by the NHS Trust before the original decision to close the centre was taken. The family now hope their concerns will be addressed when the review takes place.” 

Sue Coleman, from Portland, also welcomed the decision on behalf the family. She said: “We’ve received a lot of support in our campaign to save the centre and many others have similar concerns to us. We’re delighted that NHS Dorset will now re-consider the decision and hope that they will be able to find an alternative way forward.

“Our main concern is that Georgina gets the best possible care she deserves and we fully believe that Digby Court is able to provide the respite services she needs.

“The children who access Digby Court have serious and often complex medical needs, so it is vital that they can access the Kingfisher Children’s Ward across the road from Digby Court if there are any serious medical problems which arise during their stay.

“The hospital staff know Georgina and other children well so can respond quickly when an admission is required, which can happen quite often. I am so pleased we got expert legal help from Irwin Mitchell – just in the nick of time.”