The case of a disabled man with learning difficulties who died at
20 after his needs were allegedly neglected has been reported to
the Healthcare Commission.
Tom Wakefield, who had cerebral palsy and progressive scoliosis,
died in an adult psychiatric unit where, his family claim, his
health needs were “not properly looked after”.
His parents made an official complaint to Gloucestershire Council,
which was responsible for their son’s care, for its failure to plan
his move from school into adult care when he was 18.
They say their son remained in a residential school “five months
longer than he should have” before he was placed in an adult
psychiatric unit, after which his health declined until his death
The Healthcare Commission said it was looking into the case.
The Learning Disability Taskforce highlights the case in its third
annual report, out this week, as an example of the gaps in service
provision for people with high support needs.
In the report, Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap and taskforce
member, describes the case as “extremely sad”. She says: “The
council had not planned for [Wakefield] to move to a good care
placement when he left school. We hope that all councils will make
sure something like this does not happen again.”
Margaret Sheather, executive director for social services at
Gloucestershire Council, accepted that transition planning for
Wakefield could have been better.
But she added: “We responded immediately, including employing a
consultant to help us develop and implement a commissioning
strategy, which will address the need for appropriate care for
these young people, and are doing specific work on the way we
The report calls for greater accountability for learning
difficulties services and criticises “old-fashioned” performance
indicators for failing to show whether councils met required
The report also raises concerns over councils’ reporting on how
much they spent on services.