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Woman to get NHS help after delays

A severely disabled teenager has arrived in the UK for urgent treatment following weeks of delays caused by NHS trusts initially refusing to accept her.

The 19-year-old woman, who has to remain lying down most of the time due to her condition, requires parts of both of her legs to be amputated in order to make her more comfortable and reduce the risk of fatal infection.

A lack of expertise and resources on her island of St Helena, which is part of the British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean, meant both the UK and South Africa were considered.

Court documents show it was agreed the best option involved the patient, known only as K, visiting the UK as she is a British citizen who is entitled to NHS treatment as part of a protocol agreed by the UK and St Helena governments.

But the St Helena judge involved in the case branded the initial NHS response "shameful" after K was unable to depart the island as planned on April 21.

The St Helena Supreme Court judgement states "no NHS trust in the UK" could be found which was prepared to accept her, adding three NHS consultants were approached but "none would undertake to admit K".

St Helena's Chief Justice, Charles Ekins, doubted the decision was because of a lack of clinical expertise.

He wrote on April 23: "It seems to me to be likely therefore that the decision in each case is resource-based. If that is indeed the case then the situation is a shameful one."

Due to the urgent nature of the case, Mr Ekins said there was little alternative but to consider sending K to South Africa for treatment - regarded as a "much less preferable option" - if there was no firm indication a hospital place in the UK was or soon would be available.

He concluded: "For some time now it has been claimed that the UK's economy ranks amongst the wealthiest in the world. It is boasted that the UK's economy ranks comfortably amongst the largest 10 economies in the world.

"Political parties of every hue claim that the UK NHS is or will be safe in their hands. The two former make it even more shameful that it is apparently difficult, if not impossible, to afford treatment to a young British citizen with such catastrophic disabilities who is entitled to be treated by the NHS in the UK.

"The latter of the claims referred to frankly rings entirely hollow."

K is understood to have arrived in England yesterday after a medical evacuation flight from Ascension Island and is based at a hospital in Oxfordshire.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The FCO has supported the Government of St Helena in securing treatment for K in the UK.

"The UK Government is committed to working with the overseas territories with regards to their healthcare needs, particularly in complex cases where capacity in smaller territories may be limited."

K was born with severe disabilities and has been diagnosed with severe deformities of her upper limbs, severe spasticity and useless lower limbs, among other conditions, according to Mr Ekins' judgement.

She also has "profound learning difficulties" and is unable to feed herself.

The judgement stated K had been a resident at the Barn View care home in St Helena, with a senior social worker who was new to the island raising concerns about her living and medical conditions last September.

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust declined to comment.


From Belfast Telegraph