Hospital trust wrongly overturned autism diagnosis given to British TV newsreader's son|
LONDON, UK: An NHS trust has admitted it changed the diagnosis of a British TV newsreader's autistic son under pressure from council officials.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Essex has been told to apologise to the Channel 4 newsreader, Alex Thomson, and his family after it wrongly overturned its assessment that the boy, Henry, 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, Thomson - who works for Channel 4 News - and his partner, Sarah Spiller, are complaining to Britain's 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.
Spiller told the Mail on Sunday newspaper: "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."
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'."
A trust spokesman said it had apologised to the couple and that it had 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: Daily Telegraph, April 5, 2009)