NI man vows to challenge health service for vulnerable nephew ‘repeatedly failed’

Gareth Waterworth was 20 when he was released from the Belfast mental health facility where he was being treated.

He was allowed to go out without a doctor’s watch, supervision or signature, without medication or even a loved one alerted to make sure he was safe.

Within minutes, Gareth had entered the path of a bus, intending to die. He suffered catastrophic impact injuries.

Fourteen years later and having lost his parents, grandparents and sister, all of whom helped take care of him, there is only one person left in his world to take care of him, his uncle Paul.

He made a promise to Gareth’s late mother, Roberta, a specialist nurse at Marie Curie whose last words were: “Please take care of Gareth.”

But Paul Herbert says the very authorities trusted to protect and care for his nephew have effectively turned their backs on him, shirked responsibility, mismanaged his assessments, and covered their lack of action with apologies. in convoluted letters.

Paul said, “Gareth Waterworth, my nephew and godson, means everything to me but little to those in authority who should help and protect him.

“I think he is worth nothing to them, an expense, a problem and the general lack of care and the lack of openness had a terrible impact on his life, including allowing him to leave a facility without proper supervision and take the path of a bus.

Paul Herbert with his nephew Gareth, pictured in Hazelbank Park near Belfast.

Gareth has spent weeks in a coma following the incident on Saintfield Road in Belfast. Though he incredibly survived, learning to walk and speak again, his challenges were magnified, his scars both visible and hidden.

In addition to his mental illness, Gareth now lives with the consequences of the traumatic brain injury that left him with epilepsy, impaired memory and poor motor skills. He finds even the simplest of tasks, like brewing a pot of tea unattended, an impossible challenge.

But instead of the authorities acknowledging their role in his actions and meeting his additional needs, his uncle claims they have been entangled in countless layers of bureaucracy with no clear way out.

And he added that the health service has repeatedly failed his nephew. He believes those treating Gareth have done so without having access to his full medical history, while other records are littered with inaccuracies.

Paul said: “The level of care taken with Gareth’s files is appalling. Her sister died suddenly after an undiagnosed stomach ulcer ruptured, but according to Gareth’s notes she is twice listed as having “ completed suicide. ”

“The devastation of his death and these false reports were appalling.”

Gareth Waterworth with his sister Rachel

Paul revealed that confirmation of Assisted Living funding for Gareth with Positive Futures was picked up by Northern Health and Social Care’s Director of Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Community Wellbeing. Trust, Oscar Donnelly. His letter claimed that the offer had been made in error.

Paul said: “The Trust has asserted that in order for an investment to be approved, further appraisals need to be done on Gareth, but how can we
trust them when other evaluations have included a catalog of inaccuracies and potentially dangerous errors?

“I want to know why they turned down Positive Futures’ offer to help Gareth. As the primary caregiver, I have been excluded from meetings between the medical professionals and Gareth whose mental health and abilities are very low.

“Letters and appointments are sent directly to Gareth which he is not able to process. They have no idea what he may be up against and what he needs as a vulnerable patient, and I don’t think they want to listen either.

“We have been mired in bureaucracy for years and are not getting anywhere fast. Letters from people covering their backs, dates that just can’t be kept, and nothing of real help – and certainly little evidence of compassion. Gareth’s human rights have been repeatedly violated and when we turned to the
Ombudsman’s office, namely 10 months later that he would not investigate.

“When we turned to the RQIA [Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority], we found out that it just wasn’t right.

“Despite the perception, they simply do not have independent oversight of the standards for handling complaints in relation to the provision of mental health services by health trusts in Northern Ireland.

“It makes people like Gareth even more vulnerable to the bureaucracy that pushes him from pillar to pillar and then blames him and me for not cooperating. I have been asking for help for years. I’m Gareth’s only caregiver now, the only person he has to care for, who understands his mental illness and the impact of the brain injury.

Roberta Waterworth mother of Gareth

“He is an extremely vulnerable young man with a complex presentation and yet we feel that we have been practically abandoned by the health system.

“In my search for help, MP John Finucane called for action after Rory Winters initially laid out the situation in The Detail.

“But today, while Gareth is still technically in the care of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust Community Mental Health Team, I wonder if they are in possession of his complete medical history and medical records. full.

“And the parts that are probably missing relate to the time when Gareth was outpatient at Woodstock Lodge, before being hospitalized at the Knockbracken Mental Health Center, including the time he was allowed to leave without any supervision and walked.” directly on the way to the bus.

“Also the period in Newtownards that followed. Other recordings may be missing, we just don’t know.

“The failure of the RQIA to have independent regulatory oversight of complaints about standards of care in relation to the provision of mental health and learning disabilities services provided by health trusts in Northern Ireland is astonishing.

‘There is a deficit compared to other parts of the UK and this failure means that thousands of individuals and families, like Gareth and myself, are unhappy with the level of mental health care delivery, do not have nowhere to turn to properly investigate and respond.

“This in turn means that people in this industry end up with second class service. Our people are not less important citizens.

“The lack of RQIA inspection and regulatory oversight powers only exacerbates mental health stress issues and it is the lives of people like my speechless nephew that need support the most.

“The mental health care approach is unacceptable and no one seems willing to do anything but write reports. I see a clear lack of sufficient governance and meaningful accountability.

Paul Herbert’s nephew Gareth pictured in Hazelbank Park near Belfast.

“I agree with Glynn Brown, a father of Muckamore Abbey, that a complete root and branch overhaul is needed starting with an independent review of the process for appointing people to leadership positions in the system. health.

“The prospect of a vulnerable user of mental health care services needing to seek legal redress just to obtain their entitlement is eye-opening and should be of concern to everyone.

“Fourteen years ago, a troubled young man ran past a bus outside of Knockbracken in a moment that changed his life forever.

“I was left alone to fight for Gareth’s care and repeatedly encountered indifference displayed with confidence as a dreadful silence ensued from the authorities.

“The Department of Health was first made aware of the NHSCT’s unacceptable breaches in community mental health in March 2019 and today, in May 2021, my nephew is still in an ongoing breach of the duty of care.

“I will not give up the fight for my nephew and his rights. Today we want confirmation and proof that the Trust is in possession of all of Gareth’s medical history and records. Otherwise we want to know why and what is missing and we want to see these recordings.

“All this disproportionate and painful journey has led us to support a judicial review of the Ministry of Health, contesting the inexistence of the supervision of the inspection perceived by the RQIA and of the regulatory powers of community mental health.

“Gareth and others like him can’t do it on their own. My late sister Roberta asked me to, so I must and I will.

Lawyer Kevin Winters said, “This legal challenge cannot come quickly enough. This case is being taken on behalf of all these vulnerable people abandoned by agencies overseeing mental health services.

“It will be a surprise to many to learn that there is no independent oversight of this sector. People with mental health issues who feel disappointed have nowhere to turn. It is simply unacceptable.

“This case will hopefully remedy this permanent deficit of accountability.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust said last night: “We are actively working to facilitate assistance in this area in terms of mental health assessment.

The Ministry of Health has also been contacted for comment.

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