So, Maisie’s home, but …

Picture of Maisie Shaw, a white girl in her early teens with green dyed hair, wearing a blue jumper and grey dress or skirt to below the knee, flanked by two white women with purple running T-shirts bearing the National Autistic Society logo and the words "Hull and East Riding Running Team"Last Sunday I mentioned that there was to be a “tweet storm” in support of the “Get Maisie Home” campaign, which was really about re-opening a children’s mental health unit in Hull which was closed in 2013, requiring anyone needing inpatient care in Hull to go to other cities, often to highly unsuitable units. The focus was Maisie Shaw, a 13-year-old girl from Hull with Asperger’s syndrome and a history of self-harming, who was sent to a unit in Sheffield last December, then a private secure unit in Bury in April after running away several times. Early last week, she was suddenly released; her mother went to the hospital to pick her up for a one-night home visit and was told she did not have to bring Maisie back as it was agreed the unit was unsuitable for her. However, as her mother pointed out, she was still very much not well, and while the local paper has printed the good news, they also mentioned that Maisie has gone missing twice since being released.

The fact that this happened just after the campaign went big on social media, coupled with the fact that Maisie’s mother was not told she was being discharged until she got there, really does suggest that she was discharged to avoid bad publicity for the unit and the company running it, rather than for reasons to do with Maisie’s health or welfare. There are some echoes of what happened to Claire Dyer last November — she was discharged from a wholly unsuitable private secure unit in Sussex after three months there, just before a mental health tribunal — but she had already been home on leave for two weeks without incident (Maisie’s last home leave ended after she went missing at night) and her family wanted her to live at home and disputed the need for her to be in a hospital at all. In both cases, the companies involved must have been keenly aware of the potential for bad publicity (the families had not named either the companies or the units, although they would have done if anything had gone seriously wrong) and may have had someone lined up to replace her.

The campaign wasn’t just to get Maisie home as soon as possible at all costs; it was to get a facility reopened that could have cared for her near her family, where even if she had run away, she could have found her way home fairly quickly, and maybe spent the night there before going back in the morning. Last month Zoe Thompson of Bringing Us Together reported that she, Maisie’s mother and another supporter had met the Commissioner for children’s mental health who had agreed to fund a support package for Maisie once discharged, but it was understood that this would take time, and nobody was expecting Maisie to be released so soon; it was reported that the local CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) were taking her out during the day, but she is at greater risk at night, when there is no support.

Everyone is glad that Maisie is home for now, but there is serious potential for something to go wrong, something that a couple of other parents of children with autism (more severe than Maisie’s) said had happened to them: their children were quickly discharged to no support, and ended up in hospital again very quickly. It is quite unusual for details about a child’s mental health to be made public; the name of the girl from Hull who was sent to Cheadle in 2013 and 2014, for example, was not released although her mother’s was, and often when children go missing, their names are reported while they are missing but not afterwards, particularly if a ‘relationship’ with an adult was a factor (as with the 2012 “missing schoolgirl and teacher” case). There is likely to be an attempt to blame the publicity for any future crisis, but if a child is put in danger because of a privately-employed clinician’s hasty response to publicity, their professionalism should be under investigation rather than a family doing what they felt they needed to to get their daughter cared for at or near home.

(Maisie’s cousins Emily Frank and Emma Hoe ran the Hull 10K today in support of the Hull and East Riding branch of the National Autistic Society, and the picture above was taken after they finished. You can still donate to Emily’s or Emma’s pages.)

Update 15th June: Some new articles appeared in the local press today about this situation. One is that the local NHS trust is preparing a business case to re-open the West End unit which was closed, making situations like Maisie’s necessary. The new chief operating officer of the trust had said that NHS England had signalled their intention to make beds available there. The other is an interview with Maisie and her mother, in which she revealed that among other things she had been attacked by other patients, including a 17-year-old girl, while away. It shows the danger of housing younger teenagers with older ones who are adult in all but name, as well as housing vulnerable young people with hardened, disturbed ones. It also makes me wonder if the “discharge now at all costs” approach might have been a good idea after all.

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