Health board failed mum and severely autistic son

By Chris Betteley   |   Reporter   |
Tuesday 19th October 2021 5:00 am
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Hywel Dda University Health Board caused “significant injustice” to a mother and her severely autistic 17-year-old son that left her feeling her “family had been destroyed”, according to a new report by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

The Ombudsman, Nick Bennett, launched an investigation after receiving a complaint by a woman - referred to in the report as Ms B.

Ms B complained that Hywel Dda Health Board failed to provide her son, Mr C, who is non-verbal and ‘displays challenging behaviour’ with “appropriate psychology services.”

The report found that the health board “failed to take prompt steps and make arrangements to meet the clinical needs of Mr C” following the closure of a psychology service.

Despite the health board identifying that Mr C’s needs were not being met, it failed to put any plan in place to meet those needs.

The report found that Ms B, as Mr C’s main carer, was left without sufficient support to manage his challenging behaviours.

The health board’s communication with Ms B was “inadequate”, and “left her uninformed at a time when Mr C’s challenging behaviours were further complicated by the impact of the restrictions due to the Covid-19 lockdown,” the report found.

The health board’s complaint responses to Ms B were also “inadequate and not in line with the relevant regulations.”

The Ombudsman “found no evidence of contingency planning should the psychology service come to an end, meaning that the health board and the patients receiving the psychology service were unprepared for the abrupt end.”

Mr Bennett, said: “This is a highly concerning case where a mother felt as if ‘her family had been destroyed’ and that she was ‘on the verge of putting Mr C into care because of this lack of support’ by the health board.

“The ending of the Specialist Service left a huge gap for Ms B and all families with children with learning disabilities in the Health Board’s area.

“Ms B does not want other families to go through what she and her family had experienced, and I share this concern.”

The Ombudsman has made a number of recommendations including that the health board provides Ms B with an apology for the “clinical, communication and complaint handling failings identified”; reminds relevant staff of the importance of investigating complaints and producing complaint responses; undertakes a review to identify any other patients with unmet clinical needs as a result of the closure of the Specialist Service and ensures that steps are being taken to meet those needs; and commissions and completes its planned review of the health board’s child psychology services and reports the findings back to the Ombudsman.

The health board has not yet responded with comment.

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