By Paul Sims
A man with Down’s syndrome was locked in a one-bedroom flat and deprived of his basic human rights for ten months until his death, a report has found.
Detained against his will by health and council officials in the north east, David Parsons was denied regular contact with his wife and family and ‘abandoned’ by those caring for him.
A damning report into the 53-year-old’s treatment today condemns failures so shocking that its authors question how it could have happened in the 21st century.
The Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, took the unusual step of publishing her findings in full as a warning to other bodies.
Last night, Mr Parsons’ elder brother, Roger, accused the NHS, social services and council officials of grotesque failings.
‘David was removed from his home and effectively imprisoned,’ he told the Mail. ‘My innocent, defenceless brother was subjected to months and months of mental torture. The doctor involved would not allow him to stay with his family. She had total control over him until we were able to have her removed from his case nearly a year later.
‘The family were treated with complete contempt by the NHS and social services.
‘This would never have happened to somebody who didn’t have Down’s syndrome.’
His brother had lived in rented accommodation provided by Newcastle council from 1989 and was joined there in 1992 by his wife, who suffers from learning difficulties.
They received day-to-day support from the Coquet Trust, a charity based in the North East which was set up to help those with learning disabilities living in the community.
But in November 2005 concerns were raised about a deterioration in Mr Parsons’ health and his ability to look after himself.
He was admitted to the Northgate Hospital, operated by the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, as an informal patient for an assessment that was expected to last no more than six weeks.
After two months doctors declared that Mr Parsons had developed dementia and epilepsy, a diagnosis disputed by the family.
Nevertheless, despite their recommendation to discharge him, and because of uncertainty about where he might live, Mr Parsons remained in the hospital for another five months on a locked ward.
When he finally left the hospital in June 2006 his previous address was considered to be unsuitable so he and his wife were rehomed.
Despite protests from the family they were moved to a self-contained flat at a residential care home for the elderly and for the next ten months they remained there under lock and key.
On April 7, 2007, Mr Parsons was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. Two days later he died from pneumonia.
His family, who had fought to have him returned to his original home, lodged a complaint before his death and insist he would still be alive today had he not been treated so inhumanely.
The joint report by the Health Ombudsman and Local Government Ombudsman concluded that he had been ‘discharged into inappropriate locked accommodation’ until his death ten months later.
Highlighting significant failings, Miss Abraham wrote: ‘His rights, best interests, and family relationships were not taken into account when the trust and the council made plans for his care.