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Health trust apologise over "unacceptable" care of autistic man

Danny Treacy received a written apology from the Northern health trust over the "unacceptable" care his autistic adult son has received. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Seanín Graham

THE parents of a vulnerable man who was not diagnosed with autism until he was 40 have received a written apology from a health trust over the "unacceptable service" he has received.

Co Antrim couple Danny and Margaret Treacy say there have been "multiple failings" in their son Conor's care over a 20-year period.

The Templepatrick couple, who are in their sixties, have decided to go public in the hope that other autistic adults and vulnerable patients are "not dismissed" in the same way.

Despite receiving an apology from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and pledges of an improved service, they are concerned about their son's future living arrangements following the trust's recommendation of a facility they fear could reduce him to a "vegetative state".

It is estimated there are more than 17,000 adults suffering from autism in Northern Ireland.

In a letter from the Northern trust's clinical psychology service to the couple, a senior consultant admits there was a "catalogue of failures" in relation to their son's deteriorating condition.

Urgent assessments were not carried out in relation to problems Conor developed that affected his ability to walk - and which were later linked to his autism.

A Trust consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Nadene O'Loan wrote: "Despite you informing Dr O'Riordan that Conor's situation has deteriorated and that there was an urgent need for assessment to be completed and the report to be forwarded, you continued to receive unacceptable treatment. The catalogue of failures included failures to respond to your phone calls on many occasions, again over a prolonged period."

The Treacys hope that other vulnerable adults, who have no-one to support them, receive an improved service.

"Our real concern is how many other Conors are out there who don't have parents or carers to fight for them," Mr Treacy said.

"I have a mountain of paperwork and countless phone calls made in relation to the trust. The word autism was never mentioned until this year - if he had been diagnosed earlier we do not believe his condition had deteriorated the way it has. He is now suffering anxiety attacks and cannot walk unaided. Seven years ago he could have walked to the shops and got a video on his own."

Mrs Treacy said she fears for her son's future.

"We always brought Conor up in a ‘normal' environment as possible and did everything for him. He was never a burden and very much part of our family," she said.

"But we are getting older and realise we are not always going to be here for him. We want to get him into a place that suits his autistic needs and we would like to see it done on a phased basis so that we can be happy about where he is going."

In a statement, the Northern trust said it was "disappointed" the couple "did not have a good experience with our service" and said a review had taken place to improve services.

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