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Brain injury man's mum in legal bid to stop return to Antrim Hospital

By Alan Erwin

Published 02/08/2016

It was initially feared he may never regain consciousness, or walk and talk again.
It was initially feared he may never regain consciousness, or walk and talk again.

The mother of a Co Antrim man who suffered a serious brain injury in an alleged attack in London is taking legal action in a bid to stop any move to a unit for stroke patients.

Ann McLaughlin launched emergency proceedings amid claims her 37-year-old son Sean has been let down by the system since he returned to Northern Ireland.

The challenge was adjourned at the High Court in Belfast after health trusts agreed not to transfer him back to Antrim Area Hospital before a full hearing.

Sean McLaughlin, a joiner from Ballycastle, was assaulted while working and living in London, according to papers in the case.

He was attacked at a pub during a night out on April 30, falling backwards and hitting his head.

It was initially feared he may never regain consciousness, or walk and talk again.

But following surgery and therapy he was moved to the neurology department at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in June.

A care plan drawn up for him was said to involve further therapy before a planned transfer to Musgrave Park Hospital for rehabilitation at its brain injury unit.

Mr McLaughlin's mother claims, however, that he was instead taken to Antrim Area Hospital last month because no bed was available at Musgrave.

She is seeking to judicially review a decision taken by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in conjunction with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.

Mrs McLaughlin alleged her son suffered a further head injury in a fall after getting out into a car park at Antrim.

She also claimed his condition worsened, leaving him confused and acting bizarrely by tying sheets round his head.

"He thought he was in McDonald's and then he thought he was in Tesco's," she said in an affidavit.

"This is extremely upsetting and distressing. I was so encouraged with his progress in the last number of weeks but since he has been in Antrim he has really deteriorated."

Although her son was taken back to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Mrs McLaughlin launched legal action to stop any return to Antrim.

She sought court intervention amid claims he has been "moved from pillar to post following major surgery" and faced imminent placement at a ward which cares for stroke patients.

"I cannot allow my son to be returned to Antrim in the circumstances and I want him to be treated in accordance with the original care plan and rehabilitated to Musgrave," she stated.

"This has been extremely stressful for me and my family who have watched and witnessed such improvement and development whilst he was receiving an excellent level of care in London, only to be let down by the system in Northern Ireland."

Her solicitor confirmed the emergency High Court hearing was adjourned after the trusts agreed not to move Mr McLaughlin pending a full hearing.

Claire McKeegan, of KRW Law, said: "It is inexcusable that an individual who has just come through neurological surgery be moved to a ward that is not only incapable of providing him care but puts him at risk of further injury - as has happened in this case.

"Regrettably, this incident is indicative of the deficit in resources required to adequately care for those in need."

 Ms McKeegan added: "We are satisfied that as a result of these proceedings our client will continue to be cared for at the appropriate venue."

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