The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, said Mr B (anonymised) suffered the indignity of living in a state of isolation, blocking out the world and with limited quality of life because of lengthy delays from specialists at Cwm Taf University Health Board.
Mrs A (anonymised) made the complaint on behalf of her son. She said she had witnessed Mr B struggle to function in society for many years, and that he had sunk into a deeper depression, attempted suicide and lived in virtual isolation.
In sheer desperation, Mrs A said she took Mr B to the Crisis Team in May 2015 and thought he might get the support he required, but there were continual and lengthy delays in his autism spectrum disorder (ASD) assessment which was finally completed two years later, in May 2017.
The Ombudsman found that Cwm Taf University Health Board’s practice of referring patients needing both mental health and ASD assessments to one team at a time was contrary to professional guidance and good clinical practice, and that Mr B’s human rights under article 8 may have been compromised as a consequence of the failings identified in the report.
He noted that delays to Mr B’s ASD assessment were caused partly by the Health Board’s cancellation of several appointments due to staff unavailability and partly by resource constraints, which did not allow alternative arrangements to be made.
Despite Mr B raising concerns about his own mental health and about ineffective antidepressants, the Health Board took no action.
Commenting on the report, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett said:
“The Health Board’s practice of not referring patients for both mental health and ASD assessments concurrently is not acceptable and fails to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“No patient should be left feeling in isolation like this and it’s clear that, when Mr B needed help the most, the Health Board was found wanting.
“I am pleased that Cwm Taf has agreed to review its current practice which I hope will ensure patients are treated with dignity and respect in the future.”