Page last updated at 01:55 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Anger over care for son who died

Tom Wakefield
Tom had suffered pain and weight loss over an 18-month period

The father of a severely disabled man has said his son "died an agonizing and unnecessary death" because of the shortcomings in his health care.

Tom Wakefield, from Cheltenham, had multiple and severe learning disabilities and died at the age of 20.

An independent report by Ombudsmen stated the NHS and a council had failed to provide appropriate health and social services care.

Paul Wakefield, his father, said the errors were "torture" for the family.

Mr Wakefield said his son experienced worsening stomach pain and weight loss over an 18-month period but the signs were ignored by medics.

A new report says the care a disabled man received was so poor it caused him unnecessary suffering

"Tom's increasingly anguished reactions to pain were simply seen as bad behaviour," he said.

Mr Wakefield said a plea for his son to have an endoscopy was not taken up.

Tom died of pneumonia and reflux problems but his death was one of six highlighted by the charity Mencap.

This led to the joint report carried out by the Health Service and Local Government Ombudsmen.

Mr Wakefield said the findings of report "asks us to agree that Tom's death was not avoidable".

"The only thing that was unavoidable was medical service failure," he added.

"If unchallenged, parts of this report would have failed Tom Wakefield, and these events will continue to happen to others just like him."

Apology for care

Gloucestershire County Council, NHS Gloucestershire, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have apologised for the shortcomings in the care received by Tom.

Jan Stubbings, NHS Gloucestershire chief executive, said current healthcare practices for people with learning disabilities were being reviewed.

"We are confident that the service developments and organisational changes we have made since 2004 are making a real difference.

"We are not complacent as we recognise that there is more we need to do."

The report by the local government and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen said the care for people with learning disabilities showed many "significant and distressing failures" across the NHS and councils.

Parents who made complaints were left "feeling drained and demoralised" by the response of organisations.

The two Ombudsmen have called for an urgent review of health and social care for those with learning disabilities.



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