Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 17:07 UK

Mother wins money back in NHS row

Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust
The Welsh NHS Trust will review its provision for eating disorder patients

A mother who spent £31,000 on life-saving treatment for her daughter while NHS bodies argued over funding is to get her money back.

The daughter, who lived in south Wales, developed depression and anorexia while staying with a friend in Devon.

Ombudsmen found maladministration and service failure by NHS bodies in Wales and England against the unnamed women.

They criticised Health Commission Wales (HCW), Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, and Plymouth Teaching Primary Care Trust.

The report, issued jointly by the public services ombudsman for Wales and health service ombudsman for England, said the dispute caused the women "unremedied injustice and hardship".

The daughter, known as Miss S, fell ill and came under the care of Plymouth TPCT.

She was initially an out-patient and then, from October 2006, an in-patient, the ombudsman heard.

I was lucky so much that Mum was able to fund my healthcare when it seemed as if I was being left to die
Miss S, daughter

Plymouth TPCT then approached a consultant psychiatrist in Miss S's home area in south Wales to ask him to take over her care, but he declined.

As her condition deteriorated further, she was referred to the local specialist NHS eating disorders unit.

The referral was accepted, subject to funding, and an application for this was made to Health Commission Wales (HCW).

However HCW refused to fund the admission because Miss S had never been assessed by the services in Wales, and no follow-up plan had been put in place for when she was discharged.

At this stage the patient's mother, Mrs S, decided to pay to have Miss S admitted to a private eating disorders centre.

She complained to the ombudsmen that the NHS should have funded Miss S's care.

She added that it was out of the question for Miss S to have travelled to Wales for assessment, given her poor condition.

'Constant terror'

Miss S told the investigation: "I was lucky so much that Mum was able to fund my healthcare when it seemed as if I was being left to die."

She said that by January 2007 her health had deteriorated to a critical condition, which was being made worse by "the constant terror" of what was going to happen to her.

"There appeared no way past the apparent impasse with (HCW's) apparent determination that I should be transferred against medical advice to Wales where there were no specialist services available and (the Welsh consultant was) unwilling to accept the transfer," she said.

"Mum made the only possible decision available to her and paid for me to transfer to the "private centre" for lifesaving treatment rather than risk my life while bureaucrats continued to decide what, if anything, my life was worth."

She added: "I am concerned that there may be other people trapped in similar situations who are unable to be supported in this way by their families."

'General concerns'

The ombudsmen recommended that HCW reimburse the money paid for Miss S's care, with interest, and that all three bodies pay the women £250 each to recognise the distress they had been caused.

The ombudsmen also made a number of procedural recommendations which were addressed to HCW.

Their investigation also identified concerns about the adequacy of provision for patients with eating disorders in the Cardiff and Vale area, and in Wales in general.

The ombudsmen recommended that the trust carry out an urgent review of the provision for eating disorder patients in its area.

It was also recommended that the Welsh Assembly Government consider a Wales-wide review of the adequacy of such provision, both from an out-patient and in-patient point of view.

HCW, the Trust, the PCT and the assembly government agreed to accept the ombudsmen's recommendations.

An assembly government spokesman said the health minister would formally launch a new framework for the provision of care for people with eating disorders on Friday.

The spokesman said £500,000 would be made available this year for the recruitment of additional staff and extra training, followed by a further £1m each year to sustain and develop services.

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