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High Court rules hospital can move autistic girl 230 miles away from home

Date:4 AUG 2014
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The High Court has ruled that a 20-year-old girl with a diagnosis of a learning disability and autistic spectrum disorder currently detained in a Swansea hospital can be moved to a new placement over five-hours-drive away.

Claire Dyer is currently detained under the Mental Health Act but comes home to see her parents and siblings almost every day and sleeps at the family’s house very regularly. 

Because of her condition she displays challenging behaviour when feeling stressed or threatened, which independent experts who specialise in autism say is made worse when she is in restrictive care such as when she is at the hospital which doesn’t have specialist support for her condition. The health board responsible for her care wants to move her to a hospital facility in Brighton, some 230 miles away, despite an acknowledgement that this placement also has no autism or learning disability expertise.

Her devastated family instructed specialist health and welfare lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who secured an injunction to prevent the move earlier in the week, but today (1 August 2014) the High Court agreed that the move could go ahead.

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

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Claire’s mother, Cath Dyer from Swansea, said:

'We are heart-broken and devastated that my daughter is to be moved 230 miles away and this decision will just tear our family apart. It is clear that she needs specialist support and while we accept that her current hospital is only a temporary solution, the fact that there is no place in the whole of Wales is beyond belief. We are totally against Claire being sent hundreds of miles away to Brighton, not just because of how far away it is from her family, but also because we do not believe that a medium secure hospital is suitable to meet her needs.

We feel very strongly that moving Claire out of Wales and so far away from her family will have a devastating effect upon her and our family as a whole.

Claire’s challenging behaviours all stem from the failure to arrange an autism specific care placement. When she is at home with her family, Claire is a completely different person to the one I read about in the reports and letters produced by the NHS Health Board.

The Health Board just hasn’t properly considered our views at all and we have had to really push to get information about how they are going to help my daughter. It feels as though they are just shifting her around the UK because they can’t come up with a real solution for her. It’s heart-breaking and seems as though the authorities just want to lock her up rather than help her manage her condition.'
Expert evidence gathered by Irwin Mitchell suggests that it is highly likely Claire’s levels of distress and challenging behaviour will increase in a secure unit, and especially one so far from her home and family.

The family and Claire’s lawyers had asked the Health Board to consider alternative arrangements which involve the least restrictions for meeting Claire’s need including putting in place bespoke care for Claire in Wales whilst specialist provision is built.

Alex Rook, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said:

'While we appreciate this is a difficult situation, the family believes that the Health Board is seeking to take the easy option and is effectively passing over responsibility to someone else.

Claire and her family feel very strongly that more could and should be done to provide Claire with a real, long-term solution in the South Wales area so that she can get the support she needs in an environment that is appropriate for her needs.

It is extremely concerning that there are no suitable placements in the whole of Wales for young adults with autism and challenging behaviour and this is an issue which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.'