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High court judge ‘deeply frustrated’ by NHS delays in suicidal girl’s care

A high court judge has expressed her “deep frustration” at NHS delays and bureaucracy that mean a suicidal 12-year-old girl has been held on her own, in a locked, windowless room with no access to the outdoors for three weeks.

In a hearing on Thursday, Mrs Justice Lieven told North Staffordshire combined healthcare NHS trust “you are testing my patience”, after she heard that a proposal to move Becky (not her real name), could not progress until a planning meeting that would not be held until next week, and that a move was not anticipated until 2 March.

Three sets of doctors at the hospital trust have disagreed as to Becky’s diagnosis; at her most recent assessment doctors said she was not eligible to be sectioned, which would trigger the protections provided by the Mental Health Act, because her mental disorder was not of the “nature and degree” as to warrant her detention.

In a robust exchange, the judge demanded: “Where’s the urgency in this … I cannot believe that the life and health of a 12-year-old girl is hanging on an issue of NHS procurement, when you cannot tell me what it is you’re trying to procure.

“If the delay is procurement, I’m not having it,” Lieven continued. “I will use the inherent jurisdiction to make an order. We have a 12-year-old child in a completely inappropriate NHS unit for about three weeks, and it’s suddenly dawned on your client that ‘actually we’ll put her in a Tier 4 unit and we might have to do some [building] work.’”

Sometimes, the judge said, “public bodies have to move faster”.

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Source: The Guardian, 17 February 2023


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