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HEALTH AUTHORITY'S 'CARE IN THE COMMUNITY' DECISION WAS IN LINE WITH GOVERNMENT POLICY

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A disabled 35-year-old Lincolnshire woman has failed in her legal bid to be allowed to stay at a long-stay hospital...
A disabled 35-year-old Lincolnshire woman has failed in her legal bid to be allowed to stay at a long-stay hospital where she had been promised a home for life.

Lawyers for Katie Collins failed to persuade two appeal court judges that Lincolnshire Health Authority had been wrong to decide that she and 14 other handicapped residents of Long Leys Court would be better off moving out into homes in the community.

Katie's counsel, Mr Ian Wise, had mounted a wide-ranging attack on judge David Pannick's decision in September to dismiss her judicial review challenge.

But, refusing leave to appeal, Lord Justice Brooke said the judge's decision had been 'admirable and cannot be faulted'.

Judge Pannick had ruled that that Lincolnshire Health Authority was entitled to go back on the promise made to Katie and her family that she would be able to live out her days at Long Leys Court.

The council was convinced its decision to move Katie and other long-stay patients into the community was in their best interests and would in the end prove to be 'positively beneficial'.

He rejected claims that the health authority's stance amounted to an 'abuse of power' and a violation of Katie's rights to respect for her home under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, he ruled.

In the Appeal Court, Mr Wise condemned the health authority's view as 'paternalistic', claiming it had had greater regard for the views of experts than the wishes of residents and their families.

But Lord Justice Brooke described as 'impressive' the way in which the health authority had dealt with the sensitive issue, adding that Judge Pannick had been right to dismiss Katie's case after 'careful analysis' of all the issues.

Katie has been a patient at Long Leys Court in Lincoln since the facility was built in 1990 and her mother, Janet, went to court in a bid to keep her there for the rest of her life.

Katie was a resident at Harmston Hall Hospital from 1986 to 1989, when it closed down, and she moved the following year to Long Leys Court which had been specifically built for her and other long-stay patients displaced from Harmston Hall.

Her mother claimed that, before the move to Long Leys Court, parents and carers were shown bill boards promoting the new facility emblazoned with the words, 'A Home For Life'.

She remembered being told by officials at the time: 'At least you know they will never have to move again.'

But Lord Justice Brooke, sitting with Lord Justice Latham, confirmed Judge Pannick's decision that the health authority was entitled to go back on any promise it had made if it considered that to be in the patients' best interests.

The health authority has always said its decision was fully in line with government policy encouraging closure of long-stay hospitals in response to concerns about institutionalisation of some patients and isolation from the rest of society.

Katie was born severely handicapped, suffering from microcephaly and partialparalysis. She needs a walking frame to get about and a wheelchair over longer distances. She communicates by sign language and was assessed as having a mental age of four-and-a-half when she was aged 19.

Long Leys Court is made up of five bungalows within the grounds of St George's Hospital, each with four or five residents.

The council plans to convert the facility into an acute assessment and training unit once new homes in the community have been found for Katie and the 14 other long-stay patients.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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