Welsh Ministers and NHS board face judicial review over secure placements

Lawyers for a 21-year-old woman with learning difficulties and autism are to seek permission for a judicial review of the Welsh Government’s provision of secure placements for patients.

Claire Dyer was detained in 2014 under the Mental Health Act. However, according to law firm Irwin Mitchell, there was no suitable placement available in Wales and she was transferred to a hospital facility in Brighton for three months.

The move to Brighton was sanctioned by the NHS Wales Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

A petition calling for Dyer's return home was subsequently signed by more than 95,000 people.

Irwin Mitchell said they had asked on several occasions for information on the demand for low/medium security placements for people with learning difficulties, autism and challenging behaviour.

“However the Welsh health authorities do not appear to have basic information such as how many women in Wales may require these facilities, how many are presently placed outside Wales or the cost of these placements,” the law firm claimed.

The judicial review proceedings are to be brought against the university health board and Welsh Ministers. Statements in support of the claim have been filed by Mencap Cymru and Learning Disability Wales, an umbrella body.

Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell said: “How can the Welsh Government and local health boards know if they are meeting the needs of vulnerable people in this situation when it doesn’t know what the scale of the need and demand for these services is? They simply aren’t collecting this data which they could use to ensure they have the resources to meet the needs of vulnerable people and we have been told that there is literally nowhere that Claire can go in all of Wales. 

“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.”

Ian Wise QC and Steve Broach of Monckton Chambers are instructed by Irwin Mitchell as counsel for the claimants.

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