NHS ‘failed’ family of boy who killed himself

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HEALTH chiefs have been slammed for failing the family of a Lothian schoolboy who went on to kill himself after being refused a place on the waiting list for psychological treatment.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman criticised NHS Lothian for the level of care it provided the boy and how it treated his parents, who have sought answers for more than five years.

They wanted to know why health bosses had refused to allow him on the list for psychological treatment when he was displaying worrying behaviour.

The boy, who has not been identified, committed suicide in 2006, having been known to services for six years.

Family say mental health teams failed to care for him properly when he was initially treated in 2000 and 2001, before being discharged. They also said their complaints went unanswered.

The Ombudsman has now backed the parents and demanded health chiefs improve their handling of complaints as well as improving procedures in child mental health services.

In the report, it was revealed that one of the reasons for the delay in responding to the family’s concerns was NHS Lothian taking two years to track down a clinical psychologist first involved in the boy’s care.

The ombudsman said: “It is clear the service failures identified in this report demonstrate systematic failures by the board.

“It is evident that the service failures were as a result of poor policy and practice.”

Problems with the boy’s care began in 2001 when consultants concluded he may have Asperger’s. They decided to discharge him from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, but the family were never officially notified of this.

As a result, when they tried to get him readmitted after his behaviour became more concerning, they were told they could not because the waiting list was closed to all but emergency cases.

Five years after this he took his own life, prompting the family to lodge official complaints. But only now, another five years on, have their concerns finally been recognised.

The Ombudsman continued: “Mr and Mrs C made approximately 14 attempts to contact the consultant . . . when there were ongoing concerns about his behaviour, which at times resulted in violent outbursts and rage, heightening their concerns about their son’s mental health and wellbeing.

“He was also becoming withdrawn and agitated.”

He concluded: “That it took almost two years to trace a clinician central to the treatment of [the boy] and to the complaints raised, is at least disappointing.”

Mary Scanlon, the Conservative health spokeswoman in Scotland, praised the family for taking on the health board.

“The family have shown tremendous courage in pursuing this, knowing that it wouldn’t do anything for their own son, and I commend them for that.”

Pat Dawson, NHS Lothian’s associate nurse director, said: “I would like to express our sympathy to [the parents] for the sad loss of their son.

“The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) has made significant improvements since 2001 which include a clear and robust discharge process available for patients, parents and carers and a clear process in gathering information in relation to complaints.

“We accept the recommendations made and can confirm that we already comply with the recommendations.”

amorris@edinburghnews.com