Judge warns: Mental health failings will leave 'blood on our hands'

04 Août, 2017, 18:43 | Author: Cyril Hebras
  • Manchester High Court

There are just 11 days left to find a suicidal Cumbrian girl an NHS hospital bed - or the UK's top family judge warns the state will "have blood on its hands".

In his judgment about the girl, who can not be named and is known only as X, Sir James said there was a "disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services so desperately needed".

On Thursday evening, Dr Mike Prentice, the medical director for the NHS north region, said: "The judge is quite right that the relevant agencies need to ensure a safe, new care placement for this young woman which is suitable given the great complexities of her situation".

In a judgment published today, Sir James Munby said he was "ashamed" by the ongoing failure to find an appropriate placement for the 17-year-old to move to, despite her being due to leave youth custody in 11 days time.

"Staff do not think it will take more than 24 to 48 hours before they received a phone call stating that X has made a successful attempt on her life", Munby heard.

She said the government had begun to focus on the right areas, but said "change takes time and this case shows how far there still is to go".

"If, when in 11 days' time she is released from ZX [the unit], we, the system, society, the state, are unable to provide X with the supportive and safe placement she so desperately needs, and if, in effect, she is enabled to make another attempt on her life, then I can only say, with bleak emphasis: we will have blood on our hands", he concluded.

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He said yesterday: "If this is the best we can do, what right do we have to call ourselves civilised?".

"The honest answer to this question should make us all feel ashamed".

Despite this, when she is released within the next two weeks, local councils and NHS staff have been unable to find a place within a secure unit anywhere in the country - and have been told nothing will be available for at least six months. "We are continuing to make every effort".

"What this case demonstrates, as if further demonstration is still required of what is a well-known scandal, is the disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services so desperately needed by the increasing numbers of children and young people afflicted with the same kind of difficulties as X is burdened with".

He said: "We are, even in these times of austerity, one of the richest countries in the world". "It is shocking that, in 2017, we can not find the appropriate care for a young person in such desperate need, even when there is a recognised duty of care".

He said: "For my own part, acutely conscious of my powerlessness - of my inability to do more for X - I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the State, embarrassment as President of the Family Division, and, as such, Head of Family Justice, that I can do no more for X". X is part of our future. There are occasions, and this is one, where doing "right" includes speaking truth to power.

"It is a disgrace to any country with pretensions to civilisation, compassion and, dare one say it, basic human decency".

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