Belfast trust apologises for woman's mental health care
A Northern Ireland health trust has apologised to a young woman with mental health issues after it admitted breaching disability discrimination laws.
The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust paid out £5,500 to the female, who took a case alleging that the trust failed to provide her with adequate care and management in accessing mental health care.
The trust acknowledged that an error was made, that it failed to make reasonable adjustments in the services it was providing to her and that this was a breach of its obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act, 1995.
However, the parties agreed that there was no intention on the part of the trust to discriminate against her.
At the time, the woman was aged 19 and had been diagnosed with a chronic social anxiety disorder and depression several years previously. She suffered from agoraphobia, and had also been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
Until January 2017, she had been under the care of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service but was then to be placed under care of the Adult Mental Health Service (AMHS) team.
She also required adult autism services and the gateway to this was through the AMHS team.
The AMHS 'do not attend' protocol for outpatient appointments provided that, should a patient miss two consecutive appointments, they would be discharged from this service.
The AMHS policy has a mental health addendum which states that, if a patient does not attend, there should be a review of risk factors with their GP and, if it is decided to discharge the patient, it must be documented and the patient and GP informed in writing. However, in this situation, the addendum was not followed.
The woman was unable to attend two appointments at the AMHS office due to her disability and extreme anxiety. She was discharged in February 2017 without assessment. It was only when her mother and her GP intervened that she was reinstated.
By that time, her condition had seriously deteriorated and she was not able to access the service until March 2017.
She took a case supported by the Equality Commission.
A spokesman for the Belfast Trust said: "(We) fully accept the findings ... and offer our sincere apologises to the patient for any upset and distress suffered."