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First Published on AE Monday, 6 April 2009


By Laura Collins
Last updated at 1:02 AM on 05th April 2009


An NHS trust has been told to apologise to Channel 4 newsreader Alex Thomson and his family after admitting that it changed his son’s diagnosis under pressure from council officials.


An official inquiry has already found that the trust overturned its expert assessment that the boy was autistic – at the behest of the council, which was reluctant to meet the full cost of caring for him.


Alex Thomson

Victory: Alex Thomson with partner Sarah Spiller and twins Henry, right, and George in 2007


Now, following a three-year battle, Mr Thomson and his partner Sarah Spiller are complaining to Education Secretary Ed Balls about the way eight-year-old Henry was treated. They are also considering legal action against the trust.


The case will strike a chord with thousands of parents who fear that councils are saving money at the expense of disabled children.


Mr Thomson, 48, and Ms Spiller secured the backing of the Healthcare Commission – the official ‘watchdog’ for the health system – which criticised the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Essex and said that it should apologise. Ms Spiller told The Mail on Sunday that she is yet to receive the full apology.


Henry and twin George were born in 2000 and Henry’s problems became apparent shortly before his third birthday. Ms Spiller, also 48, said: ‘He was diagnosed with an aggressive epilepsy. We were told then that Henry might have severe learning difficulties and would need a great deal of help at school.


‘When he was diagnosed as being on “the autistic spectrum”, we were not surprised, even though the news was shattering.’


After an assessment by an educational psychologist at Essex Local Education Authority, the LEA offered limited one-to-one help for Henry, so the couple started paying for a special programme at school.


But they returned to Essex LEA hoping that, in light of the ‘autistic spectrum’ diagnosis, they would reassess his needs. Ms Spiller said: ‘Instead of them re-examining Henry, we were told that our paediatrician had decided that he did not have autism after all.’


It took a bruising 14-month legal fight to have their son’s disabilities fully recognised. Eventually, the LEA settled at a special needs tribunal in March 2007, agreeing to fund a full autism programme for Henry.


But six months later, his consultant paediatrician discharged him from her care, claiming the parents had made it impossible for her to continue.


The couple took their case to the Healthcare Commission – now part of the new Care Quality Commission.


In its finding, the commission said the trust should apologise to the couple, adding that they did not consider the explanation the trust had given was ‘accurate or adequate’.


Ms Spiller said: ‘It seems that the LEA rings the doctor and the doctor says he’s not autistic at all. A miracle cure! In a letter the chief executive of the trust stated that the paediatrician “admits that she was under some degree of pressure from the education officer to withdraw her diagnosis”.’


A trust spokesman said it has apologised to the couple and that it has reviewed its procedures.


A spokesman for the education authority said: ‘We have not been given access to the report and are therefore unable to comment.’


Source:   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1167554/Autism-specialist-changed-diagnosis-newsreader-Alex-Thomsons-son-pressure-schools-chiefs.html?ITO=1490


NHS trust apologises to newsreader after changing son’s autism diagnosis


An NHS trust has admitted it changed the diagnosis of a Channel 4 newsreader’s autistic son under pressure from council officials.


NHS trust apologises to newsreader after changing son's autism diagnosis: Alex Thompson
Alex Thompson Photo: CHANNEL 4

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Essex has been told to apologise to Alex Thomson and his family after it wrongly overturned its assessment that the boy was autistic.


An official inquiry found that it had done so at the request of the council, which was reluctant to meet the full cost of caring for him.


After a three-year battle Mr Thomson and his partner Sarah Spiller are complaining to Education Secretary Ed Balls about eight-year-old Henry’s treatment. They are also considering legal action against the trust.


The Healthcare Commission, the official NHS watchdog, has criticised the trust and demanded an apology.


Henry and his twin brother George were born in 2000. Henry was diagnosed with an aggressive epilepsy by the trust after his family noticed behavioural problems shortly before his third birthday.


Henry was also given an assessment by an educational psychologist at Essex Local Education Authority. The LEA then offered only limited one-to-one help for Henry, so the couple started paying for a special programme at school.


But after receiving the “aggressive epilepsy” diagnosis they returned to Essex LEA hoping that Henry’s care would be reassessed.


Ms Spiller told the Mail on Sunday: “Instead of them re-examining Henry, we were told that our paediatrician had decided that he did not have autism after all.”


It took a 14-month legal battle to have their son’s disabilities fully recognised after the LEA agreed, at a special needs tribunal in March 2007, to fund a full autism programme for Henry.


But six months later, his consultant paediatrician discharged him from her care, claiming the parents had made it impossible for her to continue.


The couple took their case to the Healthcare Commission, now part of the new Care Quality Commission, which found that the explanation the trust had given was not “accurate or adequate”.


Ms Spiller said: “In a letter the chief executive of the trust stated that the paediatrician “admits that she was under some degree of pressure from the education officer to withdraw her diagnosis”.”


Mr Thomson said: “The whole process has been extremely stressful for our family. Looking after a child with special needs is difficult enough as it is without having to fight a legal battle with the NHS and the local authority to get the care he deserves.


“We are certainly not the only family to have gone through this. It is happening up and down the country and it has got to be stopped.”


A spokesman for the trust said: “The trust has been in recent communication with the family and we have apologised. We can confirm that we have reviewed our procedures in the light of national guidelines and the need to continue to develop the best possible local practices.”


A spokesman for the education authority said: “We have not been given access to the report and are therefore unable to comment.”


Source:   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5109442/NHS-trust-apologises-to-newsreader-after-changing-sons-autism-diagnosis.html



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